“Community-Driven” Management Through Place-Based Bill: Brown’s Canyon

Senator Mark Udall meets with local officials at the Palace Hotel in Salida, as part of his announcment that he will be introducing his Browns Canyon bill in Congress next week.
Senator Mark Udall meets with local officials at the Palace Hotel in Salida, as part of his announcment that he will be introducing his Browns Canyon bill in Congress next week.

Synchronistically, as we were discussing NFMA planning, I received an email from Senator Udall’s office. My italics.. note two things, it was based on community negotiating, and uses will not change or be revised on a regular (or not so regular) basis. And it’s “All Lands”. I didn’t look at the bill.

After working for nearly two years to develop a collaborative, community-driven plan to create Browns Canyon National Monument, I was pleased to recently announce the introduction of my bill in Nathrop. Watch video.

This proposal would protect some of our most-loved river rafting spots along the iconic Arkansas River between Salida and Buena Vista by designating the area as a national monument and the adjacent Browns Canyon as wilderness. The official designation would literally put the region on the map, drawing more visitors to its world-class outdoor recreation opportunities and supporting the local tourism economy.

That is why I can say with confidence that when we work hand-in-hand with communities to preserve public lands, we are supporting jobs, our economy and Colorado’s high quality of life. Our world-class natural amenities are one of our greatest economic engines, and preserving public lands helps keep jobs, entrepreneurs, and investment moving to and thriving in our state.

I became engaged in the movement to recognize Browns Canyon because local residents and businesses asked me to. I worked side-by-side over the last 18 months with Chaffee County leaders, residents, businesses, and other stakeholders to hold several public meetings and conduct more than 50 face-to-face meetings. The resulting bill is emblematic of how public lands bills should be done: from the bottom up and based on what the community wants.

My community-driven proposal designates 22,000 acres along the Arkansas River canyon and surrounding backcountry as the Browns Canyon National Monument, including 10,500 acres as Wilderness. This bill preserves visitor access and protects existing legal uses as they are now, so fishing, hunting, livestock grazing, commercial outfitting, mountain biking and motorized use will all continue as they have been. I’d also like to note that this will not be like a National Park Service monument. Instead, this monument will stay under the same management as it has now — the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area.

I believe that we don’t inherit the land and water from our parents — we borrow it from our children. Having visited Browns Canyon and kayaked the Arkansas River many times, I know that Coloradans from all walks of life agree. That’s why I am dedicated to leading the fight — with Coloradans by my side — to ensure that future generations of Coloradans can enjoy the Browns Canyon National Monument and experience this unique mix of exciting whitewater and wilderness backcountry.

Visit my website to learn more about my work to create the Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Area.

The website is worth looking at and points out that more planning will be done..but the agencies are going to do it together and it doesn’t sound like it would have NFMA’s requirements.

7 thoughts on ““Community-Driven” Management Through Place-Based Bill: Brown’s Canyon”

  1. Browns Canyon was where I heard the term “Quiet Use Coalition” for the first time, the politically-correct-recreation and new-economy “business community” seeking to eliminate everything but their use on public lands. That was 18 years ago at least, during the Clinton Administration.
    This is clearly a move to get Obama to squeeze the National Monument trigger. Podesta is now in, Jewell has made herself clear about the Antiquities Act, Congress sits with its thumb somewhere, and with Obamacare doing what it’s doing — Obama needs some kind of legacy, so he’s going for the consolation prize while Udall shores up his own support for 2014.

  2. Dave.. what I think is interesting about this, though, 1) is that there are folks who want to keep their existing uses, and folks who want them to stop (grazing, etc.). By simply stating “we are not decreasing these things” you take a lot off the table. What I like about this is the idea that “what people are doing now is OK and we are not going to decrease their access.”
    The other thing I like is 2) that they left it with the same agencies. As we’ve seen before, some folks would want to switch to the Park Service hoping for more bucks.

    So it has the marketing features of a monument, and yet the consistency of the current agencies, with future interagency planning.

    My point was not that everything should be a national monument. My point was that in this situation it’s OK to make land use decisions based on the thoughts of locals (and I’m sure some national groups were involved), that are more or less permanent.

    If it’s really really important for folks to follow NFMA, rather, and the same issues to be resolved in settlement agreements rather than with Congressfolk, then it seems to me that NFMA is not “the best way”; it’s just an expensive recurring requirement that takes land management out of the hands of the people and their elected representatives, and into those who can fund lawsuits. And such requirements can be changed..or superseded by place-based bills.

  3. NFMA is “just an expensive recurring requirement that takes land management out of the hands of the people and their elected representatives, and into those who can fund lawsuits.”

    I’ve had a hard time understanding the continuing theme on this blog that those who help enforce the laws Congress passed (or the judges who agree with them) should be criticized. That just seems un-American to me. Also that those who count on donations, memberships and contingency fees to fund those lawsuits have some unfair advantage. And the idea that ‘settlement agreements’ are common, and they are somehow outside of the legal process. It all has a talk-radio ring to it. The more times you say it the more people believe it, whether there is any truth to it or not. Has it occurred to you that place-based bills may be the Congressional equivalent of settlement agreements – maybe not getting a whole lot of attention from those not close to that place?

    That being said, this one sounds pretty simple and harmless. It seems to be just an attempt to get some publicity, based on the current management plan (produced in accordance with NFMA). It might be worth having a general discussion about whether forest plans should be adopted legislatively (like wilderness), so that they can’t be amended without going back to Congress. (This bill by the way appears to be totally different from the attempts to legislate new and different place-based management plans.)

  4. Who is Udall fighting to get this national monument and wilderness designaiton?
    Why, is it necessary to protect it? Isn’t protected already? How long before the current uses are declared incompatible with wilderness and national monument designation?
    Is this really a community effort a just one environmental groups mission?

  5. Browns Canyon is in between the Fourteener part of the Ark Valley and Salida, it’s always been kind of de-minimis, with few roads (nothing there and high relief topo) and the railroad. The highway runs to the west where the engineering isn’t so daunting. I took a dirt bike up the east side jeep trail for a few miles a long long long time ago. Not bad, not epic.
    The crux is “protects existing legal uses as they are now” — this after interim restrictions on motorize recreation. There was some potential that the east side of the river could be made a great place to ride with some trail construction — which of course is seen as a threat by the floaters.
    This existing use meme is also front and center in the Rocky Front “collaboration” bill, after roughly 80 percent of the long-standing Front singletrack network was closed to motorized use in 2005 or so in the wake of Gloria Flora’s mineral withdrawal.
    The railroad is dormant, meaning those jobs disappeared long ago.
    Never mind the railroad isn’t a road but is mechanized — hmmm, I guess that means the rest of the iron is coming up after laying there for 20 years.
    With 14ers all around there’s no real draw for hikers. But I can see the rafters counting dollar signs as they market trips in a NATIONAL MONUMENT rather than just a humdrum, “unprotected” river segment in a really brown Browns canyon.
    This is all about marketing. The Middle Fork rafters around here ruined my fishing and train-hunting experience. Then there’s all the silly yahoooing that goes on after the urbanites “survive” the so-called Bonecrusher reach, which is like ten waves. Eeeeek. Spare me the drama, thanks, but trumped drama is what the paying customers take home with them.

  6. Dave, I think inertia is a powerful and underappreciated force in natural resource policy. It is easier to “not allow something new to get started” than to “stop things people are already doing”. Many people would like others to “stop things they are already doing”. Just taking that off the table, permanently, has some utility, IMHO.

    If we just focused on “new things, allowed or not?” I think it save much time and effort in planning, and the extra time and bucks could be spent on making sure that things we already do are done in an environmentally responsible manner.

    I agree that the Monument thing is about marketing – even so I think it has some value if only that there is a deal which can stick because it’s legislated. People could agree to “live and let live” and put a stamp on it.


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