On December 3, 2013, Senator Mark Udall introduced a bill to protect Browns Canyon (S. 1794, Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Act of 2013). This legislation would safeguard one of Colorado’s most treasured landscapes. CWF has actively supported protection for Browns Canyon for many years. The bill is the result of almost two years of discussions and work for the purpose of preserving outdoor recreation along the 22,000-acre Arkansas River canyon and backcountry. The whitewater kayaking, fishing, hunting, birding and other outdoor recreation activities there produce a significant contribution to Colorado’s economy. The regional whitewater boating industry alone accounts for more than $23 million in direct expenditures, yielding an economic impact of $60 million to the Arkansas River valley.
As of the end of May, 2014, the bill has not been heard by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Here is the press release from December 3:
Nathrop, Colo. — After 18 months of collaboration with sportsmen, Chaffee County leaders, businesses and residents, Sen. Mark Udall introduced legislation today that would designate Browns Canyon as a national monument.
The bill would establish protections over 22,000 acres that would help maintain the quality of hunting and fishing habitat around the canyon as well as the always popular Arkansas River. Given the flexible nature of monuments, undeveloped portions of the monument would be designated as wilderness and less stringent protections would be placed on the rest of the area, encouraging public use and recreation.
“The Arkansas is the most popular rafting river in the country. I’ve spent many years guiding raft and fishing trips on the Arkansas and spending time in Browns Canyon is a highlight of any trip,” said Bill Dvorak, a longtime outfitter and organizer for Sportsmen for Brown’s Canyon. “Protecting Browns Canyon would maintain an important, sustainable part of the area economy. Just as important is protecting air and water quality and fish and wildlife habitat at a time when increasing population and development are creating more demands on public lands.”
Browns Canyon, located just south of Buena Vista, has long been known for it’s stunning fishery, but it’s value to big game is equally important. Mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep and other large predators such as black bear make good use of this lower elevation territory.
On average, hunter and anglers spend about 36 million dollars in Chaffee County alone each year, contributing their fair share to Colorado’s 2 billion dollar hunting and fishing economy. “Whether hunting with a bow, muzzleloader or rifle, Browns is easily accessible from a number of points a few miles from the towns of Salida or Buena Vista and a short two hour drive from Colorado’s Front Range,” said Colorado Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Co-Chair David Lien. “Either by foot or horseback, sportsmen have enjoyed a high quality hunt in this wilderness setting.”
As one of the most treasured landscapes in Colorado, Browns Canyon is also one of the least protected said Suzanne O’Neill of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. “Colorado Wildlife Federation appreciates Senator Udall’s steadfast approach during the past year for ascertaining and embracing local community views on how to conserve this jewel for future generations,” she said.