The Wilderness Society applauds Senator Udall announcement on wilderness discussion process

Feb 27, 2012

Senator Udall asks for community input on the protection of Browns Canyon and areas in the Central Mountains

The Wilderness Society today praised Colorado Senator Mark Udall for launching a new process to discuss the protection of two critical areas in Colorado. The Senator will ask for community input for establishing permanent protection for the Arkansas River Canyon and selected parcels in the central Rocky Mountains in Summit, Eagle and Pitkin counties. Protection for both areas has long been supported by local communities that include business owners, sportsmen, elected officials, recreation groups and more.

The Arkansas River Canyon National Monument and Browns Canyon Wilderness process will consider a national monument designation for approximately 20,000 acres along the iconic Arkansas River between Salida and Buena Vista. Browns Canyon serves as a home for a variety of animals and is a haven for outdoor recreationists who travel to Chaffee County from across the U.S. to raft, fish, hike, hunt, and camp in this segment of the Arkansas River.  The recreational experiences are only rivaled by the incredible scenery that consists of granite canyons and a mix of meadows and forests. For more than 10 years, local community members have been advocating for the protection of this economic engine and are pleased to see the process moving forward.

“My business livelihood and quality of life both depend on the protection of Browns Canyon,” said Michael Kunkel, owner of Lifestream Water Systems in Salida, Colorado. “I want to thank Senator Mark Udall for recognizing the natural and cultural significance of this canyon, and listening to small business owners throughout this process. Protecting this natural treasure will continue to benefit our local economy by keeping jobs here at home while also providing incredible nature immersion experiences.”

The Central Rocky Mountains process will consider roughly 236,000 acres in 32 areas in Eagle, Pitkin and Summit counties. These areas include additions to existing Wilderness Areas including Holy Cross, Eagles Nest and the Maroon Bells.  This area serves as critical animal habitat and offers ample outdoor recreation opportunities.  Locals and visitors repeatedly flock to this natural treasure to hike, hunt, fish and camp. The surrounding towns and counties benefit greatly from the economic sustainability tourists and outdoor recreation enthusiasts bring from around the state, country, and world.

Outdoor recreation is an important economic driver in Colorado. It contributes over $10 billion annually to Colorado’s economy and supports over 107,000 jobs across the state. Additionally, a recent bi-partisan poll by Colorado College found that 93 percent of those surveyed agreed that “our national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are an essential part of Colorado’s economy.”

“Senator Udall is calling for this community-driven process because these places are too special not to be protected,” said Jeff Widen, conservation designations associate director at The Wilderness Society. “Coloradoans value these lands for the spectacular beauty, recreational activities and economic opportunities they provide.”

The Wilderness Society is looking forward to working with Senator Udall on the public process and ultimately protecting these iconic places.