Colorado’s congressional delegation has sounded off support for Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwestern Colorado. The 175,160 acre monument was designated in 2000 by President Bill Clinton to protect thousands of archeological artifacts left on the land by the Ancestral Pueboloan.
“We believe any review of Canyons should conclude that no changes to the designation are necessary,” said Republicans Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton in a letter.
Democrats Sen. Michael Bennet and Gov. John Hickenlooper emphasized the collaborative process Colorado has followed to gain National Monument designation for places. The most recent example is Browns Canyon.
“In our experience, consultation between the administration and local elected officials was frequent and straightforward,” the duo said in their letter.
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s review has already prompted (as of the publishing of this story) more than 85,000 comments from across the country. Environmental groups have sounded alarm bells that the monuments under review could see their boundaries shrunk Groups also worry that some areas could be opened for drilling and other industrial activity.
Many of the comments for Canyons of the Ancients read like a love letter.
“If there was ever a place that deserved protection for future generations it's this area and the treasures within its boundaries,” wrote a commenter who identified themselves as a former BLM law enforcement ranger who patrolled the area before it became a monument. “As someone who has spent years exploring and documenting this area with photographs, it does need the extra protection afforded it by National Monument designation.”
Nearby scientists, archeologists and residents who live in southwest Colorado have also weighed in. Zachary Taylor described himself as a mining engineer and a “lover of the outdoors.” He went on to outline the complicated relationship between the monument and fossil fuel extraction on public lands.
“I have a unique relationship with the land. Everyday I have to find a way to balance development and conservation with my job,” Taylor wrote. “So when I write to you, pleading to NOT reduce our National Monuments, you can safely assume that I have thought about the ramifications long and hard.”
Not all of the comments have been heartfelt missives or proclamations of support from elected officials.
Others have instead advocated for a reduction in the Canyons of the Ancients’ size. In addition to more than a hundred form letters that reference the American Motorcyclist Association, one anonymous commenter called out Canyons and wrote, “I believe ALL of the following ‘National Monuments’ were illegally designated in violation of the Constitution for the United States, and their status as ‘National Monuments’ should be rescinded.”
The commenter continued, echoing some of the simmering “sagebrush rebellion” sentiment familiar to the region.
“The West belongs to the westerners who live there - not federal bureaucrats and federal functionaries living in the District of Columbia. All federal land in the west MUST be turned over to the States.”
The public has until May 26, 2017 to comment on Bears Ears National Monument. July 10, 2017 is the deadline to comment on Canyons of the Ancients and 25 other sites.
Those who wish to participate can go to this comment page on the government’s regulations web site. Click “comment now,” and submit or click on the button above.