Browns Canyon National Monument is a success story for conservation. The area provides critical wildlife habitat, premiere trout fishing and year-round opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Browns Canyon, long renowned for its scenic river canyon and rugged backcountry in the Upper Arkansas River Valley, was designated a National Monument on February 19, 2015 via presidential proclamation, by President Obama. The monument encompasses 21,586 acres, and is co-managed by the United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, Governor John Hickenlooper, Former U.S. Senator Mark Udall, State and Local Officials, and many other citizens celebrated the designation in July 2015.
Explore and enjoy this stunning area that defines Colorado’s outdoor legacy today and into the future.
Browns Canyon National Monument Plan
The BLM and USFS published the Browns Canyon Notice of Intent in the Federal Register on May 14, 2019, officially beginning the Resource Management Plan (RMP) process, which is expected to take about one year to complete. This was accompanied by a 30-day public comment "scoping" period, in which the BLM and USFS solicited comments from the public about issues to be addressed in the Browns Canyon National Monument planning process, such as wild and scenic river values as well as wildlife and wilderness values.
The Draft RMP was released for public review in October, which had a 90-day public comment period, and three plan alternatives. The BLM and USFS hosted three formal public meetings in November and two online virtual meetings in December to explain the draft plan and encourage public comment.
Browns Canyon National Monument. Photo Friends of Browns Canyon.
BCNM Final EIS and Proposed Plan is Now Available
Public review and protest period ends May 18
The BLM and USFS released the BCNM proposed RMP on April 17, which has a 30-day public review and public comment period. The plan includes a new alternative (D), which is the proposed alternative in the plan.
Those who have previously submitted comments during this planning process will have a last chance to identify inadequacies in the agencies’ plan.
This also triggers a 60-day Governor’s consistency review process. Hopefully Governor Polis and other state agencies will have time to weigh in on this, however understandable if not.
Wild Connections, along with many other groups, had signed onto comments to the agencies to delay releasing agency plans during this COVID-19 pandemic as state and citizen priorities and resources are reasonably focused elsewhere, however that fell on deaf ears.
Wild Connections is part of a greater collaborative group reviewing and analyzing these documents. The group submitted a “Sustainable Alternative” during the scoping comment period, which had overwhelming local public support, however the BLM & USFS did not include it in the draft, citing that it was too close to Alternative B. Unfortunately the agencies chose Alternative C as the preferred alternative, however due to public comments at the draft phase, tenants from the Sustainable Alternative were taken to help create Alternative D, which is now the preferred alternative.
The development of the Sustainable Alternative was very intentional in prioritizing the protection of Monument resources, objects, and values, while balancing increased need for recreational access and conservation.
Key Tenants of the Sustainable Alternative:
Protect the Monument's Natural Character
Manage for Lands with Wilderness Characteristics in Ruby Mountain and Railroad Gulch.
Maintain the Browns Canyon Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) designation.
Adopt Alternative B as it related to landscape-based Management Zones.
No non-native seeding should be used for restoration activities.
No e-bikes on non-motorized trails within the monument.
Protect the Area's Sensitive Wildlife
No new trails should be allowed within big game winter range
Seasonal closures for special recreation permits and large group events should apply within sensitive wildlife habitat.
Move seasonal gate closures for easier public access and protection of sensitive wildlife.
Riparian areas in the monument must be protected.
Agencies should focus on the prevention of introduction and spread of invasive species.
Manage for Sustainable Recreation and Access
Agencies should inventory undesignated non-system routes and close, decommission, or restore (prioritizing in that order).
Manage front country sites as needed for additional visitation and use, including waste receptacles, leave no trace signage, & effective adaptive management.
Agencies should prioritize & invest in the monitoring of specific locations to gather baseline information.
Some of this was adopted in the new Alternative D, particularly with strong emphasis on protecting wildlife, the Aspen Ridge Roadless Area, visual resources and soundscapes, and cultural resources. However there are still concerns we have for the preferred alternative, outlined below.
Talking Points for the Protest Period:
There is no management of protection for wilderness values identified as Lands with Wilderness Characteristics.
The Browns Canyon ACEC designation has been removed.
Recreational target shooting is allowed throughout the majority of monument. Alternative D actually opens more land to recreational shooting than previously proposed in Draft RMP.
Or U.S. mail to Director (210), Attn: Protest Coordinator, P.O. Box 261117, Lakewood, CO 80226
Note, they are not accepting email comments.
The BLM and USFS have more info, including how to comment, at their e-planning website: here.
Wild Connections is advocating strongly for a conservation alternative and management policies that keep the proposed Browns Canyon wilderness intact, with minimal disturbances to wildlife habitat. Of note, there are several Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep lambing areas and American peregrine nesting areas in Browns Canyon National Monument.
We urge you to comment on this monument plan. You can comment at any time.
Arkansas River in Browns Canyon National Monument. Photo Bob Wick.
Presidential Proclamation Describes Natural and Cultural Values
Perhaps there is more to Browns Canyon than you thought. The President's Proclamation begins with this:
"In central Colorado's vibrant upper Arkansas River valley, the rugged granite cliffs, colorful rock outcroppings, and stunning mountain vistas of Browns Canyon form an iconic landscape that attracts visitors from around the world. The landscape's canyons, rivers, and backcountry forests have provided a home for humans for over 10,000 years, and the cultural and historical resources found in this landscape are a testament to the area's Native Peoples as well as the history of more recent settlers and mining communities. The area's unusual geology and roughly 3,000-foot range in elevation support a diversity of plants and wildlife, including a significant herd of bighorn sheep. Browns Canyon harbors a wealth of scientifically significant geological, ecological, riparian, cultural, and historic resources, and is an important area for studies of paleoecology, mineralogy, archaeology, and climate change."
The Proclamation then continues with a detailed description of its location at the northern end of the Rio Grande Rift System, Native Americans who frequented the area for hunting and ceremonies, European exploration, mining, geology, plant diversity, and animals found there - a treasure trove of nature and culture. The concluding sections outline some of the restrictions and permissions that apply to the new monument.
Surface scatter and other archeological artifacts are found in several sites in the Monument. Photo John Stansfield.
The formation known as The Reef is exposed in Stafford Gulch, one of many steep gulches excised in the 1.6 billion-year-old Precambrian batholith of the larger Canyon. Photo John Stansfield
Next best thing to being there...
Enjoy these pictures taken by John Stansfield, Steve Valimaki, Kurt Kunkle, Friends of Browns Canyon and Conservation Colorado
Wild Connections' mission is to identify, protect, and restore wildlands, native species, and biological diversity in the Arkansas and South Platte watersheds. They are the ancestral lands of the Ute, Cheyenne, Arapaho and other indigenous peoples.