Sportsmen, wildlife advocates back Browns Canyon bill

Groups say monument designation would permanently protect prized landscape

07-23-2014 // Judith Kohler

Bighorn SheepSportsmen’s and wildlife groups are urging members of Congress to support a bill that would permanently protect Colorado ’s Browns Canyon, a treasured wildlife and recreation area.

The Senate National Parks Subcommittee was scheduled Wednesday to consider S. 1794, a bill by Colorado Sen. Mark Udall that would establish the 22,000-acre Browns Canyon National Monument. The hearing represents a step forward after more than two decades of work by grassroots organizations and elected officials to conserve the nationally known whitewater rafting site and important fishing and hunting spot, National Wildlife Federation and Colorado Wildlife Federation representatives said.

"The legislation would safeguard one of Colorado’s most treasured landscapes. The Colorado Wildlife Federation has actively supported protecting Browns Canyon for many years because of its importance to anglers, hunters and wildlife enthusiasts," said Suzanne O’Neill, CWF’s executive director.

Browns Canyon offers some of the country’s best whitewater rafting and premier fishing, said Bill Dvorak, a rafting and fishing guide and NWF’s public lands organizer in Colorado. He noted that Colorado Parks and Wildlife recently designated a 102-mile stretch of the Arkansas River, which runs through Browns, as a Gold Medal fishery based on the quantity and quality of the trout.

"I’ve been guiding river trips through Browns Canyon in the area since the early ’80s and it’s undeniably one of the top whitewater destinations in the country," Dvorak said. "Browns Canyon is a critical part of the area’s economy. Last year, recreation on the Arkansas River pumped at least $55 million into the economy."

Dvorak noted that earlier proposals to protect Browns would have set aside 100,000 acres.

"People have compromised through the years to come up with a plan that will work," Dvorak added. "It’s time to take action to make sure that the backcountry, fishing, wildlife and economic benefits that Browns Canyon provides will be around for a long time to come."

Browns, with its granite rock formations and sweeping views of the Arkansas Valley and the Collegiate Peaks, some higher than 14,000 feet, is home to bighorn sheep, elk, deer, black bears, mountain lions, eagles and falcons. Udall’s bill, cosponsored by Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, would classify 10,500 acres within the monument as wilderness. Existing access and land uses, including hunting, commercial outfitting, motorized travel and livestock grazing, would continue.

 

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