Click here for a 2-part Mountain Mail article about the history of Browns Canyon National Monument.
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) completes a Roadless Area Review and Evaluation (RARE I), finding that all USFS lands within Browns Canyon and surrounding areas, tens of thousands of acres, are suitable to be designated as wilderness.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recommends 11,000 acres in Browns Canyon area as a “primitive” area.
Because the BLM was not included in the 1964 Wilderness Act, Congress moves to protect wilderness-quality lands by passing the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). The act directs the agency to inventory its lands and identify areas with certain characteristics as wilderness study areas, areas that Congress would then designate as wilderness or open for other uses.
In August, Browns Canyon is among areas proposed for protection of primitive values with FLPMA, requiring Browns Canyon be reviewed for wilderness designation.
On Sept. 7, BLM closes to motorized use the portion of Turret Trail on BLM land.
The USFS completes the RARE II process, including public involvement. 23,500 acres of USFS land near Browns Canyon is identified as roadless land.
The BLM identifies 6,614 acres in and around Browns Canyon as possessing wilderness characteristics.
The BLM seeks public comment on a proposal to recommend the Browns Canyon area as a Wilderness Study Area. The vast majority of comments favor the recommendation.
The Pike and San Isabel National Forest, after public comment, issues a new Land and Resources Management Plan. Most of the USFS land within Browns Canyon is prescribed to be managed as big game winter range.
A House bill introduced by Colorado Reps. Wayne Allard (R) and Dan Schaefer (R) seeks to designate hundreds of thousands of acres in Colorado as wilderness, including Browns Canyon. The Colorado Wilderness Act of 1991 never makes it out of committee.
The BLM officially designates Browns Canyon as a wilderness study area (WSA) in January.
The BLM Royal Gorge Field office issues its Resource Management Plan, completed with public involvement. It recognizes much of the land in the Browns Canyon area, including the WSA, as an “area of critical environmental concern” for its wildlife habitat and scenic values.
Colorado Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette (D) submits a proposal known as the Colorado Wilderness Act. The first iteration of DeGette’s Wilderness Act has 25 co-sponsors but fails to make it to the floor for a vote. The Browns Canyon portion of DeGette’s bill is 21,809 acres. Degette continues working to pass the Colorado Wilderness Act for the next 16 years without success.
DeGette hosts a public meeting in July with Chaffee County Commissioners Frank McMurry, Glenn Everett and Jim Thompson regarding the Browns Canyon portion of her Colorado Wilderness Act. The commissioners unanimously vote to support the 6,614 acres in Browns Canyon as wilderness.
A Roadless Area Conservation Rule (the Roadless Rule) is issued, which identifies Colorado roadless areas. USFS lands in the monument area, as well as additional land to the north, are identified as a 24,908-acre roadless parcel.
The BLM and USFS issuing the Fourmile Travel Management Plan, completing a multi-year public process. The plan moves the northern boundary south to the current national monument boundary (USFS Trail 1434), removing 2,463 acres from DeGette’s proposed wilderness area. The plan designates a network of quiet-use hiking and horseback-riding trails in the Browns Canyon WSA.
Friends of Browns Canyon officially forms to obtain local community and bipartisan support for getting formal wilderness protection for the area. DeGette proposes to designate 34,762 acres of land as a Browns Canyon Wilderness. Concerns expressed by USFS, BLM, river outfitters, motorized recreationists, Chaffee County commissioners, private land owners, Colorado state lands and the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District reduce the size of the proposed wilderness area to 20,050 acres.
In January, Rep. Joel Hefley (R) hosts a public meeting at the Chaffee County Courthouse regarding Browns Canyon. Chaffee County commissioners Joe DeLuca, Jim Thompson and Tim Glenn unanimously support the revised Browns Canyon wilderness proposal.
In August, Hefley holds a public meeting at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds to gauge local support for the wilderness area.
All speakers voice support for the proposal.
Three months later, Hefley and six other members of the Colorado congressional delegation introduce the Browns Canyon Wilderness Act, House Resources Bill 4235. Sen. Wayne Allard introduces companion legislation in the Senate.
Testimony is given by Friends of Browns Canyon members to the U.S. House Natural Resource Committee in July. Per Hefley, “The hearing went well and was passed favorably along to the full House committee.”
However, friction between Tom Delay (R) and Hefley causes Natural Resource Committee Chair Richard Pombo (R) to hold the bill in committee, preventing a vote on the House floor.
U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar (D) hosts a meeting in Salida in October with more than 50 individuals in attendance, all of whom support a Browns Canyon wilderness bill.
Rep. Hefley decides to not seek re-election.
By October, the National Rifle Association (NRA) publicly opposes a Senate vote on the bill.
Immediately after winning the November election for Hefley’s congressional seat, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R) says he will not support Hefley’s initiative to designate Browns Canyon as a wilderness area.
In December, Chaffee County Commissioner Jerry Mallett negotiates an agreement with the NRA, however the 109th Congress adjourns before a vote can be taken.
In April, Lamborn hosts a public meeting in Salida with the proponents of the wilderness bill in the morning and opponents in the afternoon. Again, all three Chaffee County commissioners, Osborne, Mallett and Glenn support a Browns Canyon wilderness, continuing unanimous commissioner support for some form of a Browns Canyon wilderness since 2000.
Salazar hosts a public meeting in Buena Vista in August to hear comment on the Browns Canyon proposal; however, no legislation is introduced as Sen. Salazar is appointed Secretary of the Interior by President Barack Obama.
DeGette introduces another wilderness bill and Sen. Mark Udall (D) creates a “draft discussion” bill for Browns Canyon, tentatively called the “Joel Hefley Browns Canyon Wilderness Act.” The bill never gets past the discussion stage.
In September, DeGette and Lamborn host a public meeting in Cañon City, where strong support is voiced for Browns Canyon and other BLM wilderness study areas in Colorado’s 5th District, including in Fremont County.
All three Republican Fremont County Commissioners – Ed Norden, Larry Lasha and Mike Stiehl – vote in support of DeGette’s bill. DeGette’s bill never makes it to the U.S. House for a vote.
More than 100 local businesses and organizations submit letters supporting a Browns Canyon Wilderness Area.
Friends of Browns Canyon, in conjunction with Volunteer Outdoor Colorado, begins implementing the Catkin Gulch/Turret Trail trail system in the Browns Canyon WSA, which takes 4 years to complete.
Now Secretary of the Interior, Salazar submits a short list of “crown jewels” areas to Congress, suggesting that these areas deserve congressional action to protect them as wilderness. Browns Canyon is one of 18 areas nationwide included on the list.
In February, Udall outlines three potential options to designate the Browns Canyon area as a national monument, encompassing 20,000 to 22,000 acres. For the first time, BLM land to the west of the Arkansas River is proposed for protection, with the Browns Canyon WSA at the heart of the proposals.
Udall hosts a public meeting in April at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs to announce his plan.
In January, Udall announces plans to make Browns Canyon legislation available to the public.
Udall unveils the plan April 13 at a public meeting seeking citizen input at Noah’s Ark Rafting in Nathrop, near Browns Canyon.
Udall and Lamborn listen to statements from many members of the public, the majority of whom support the designation.
On Dec. 10, Udall introduces Senate Bill 1794 to establish Browns Canyon National Monument.
Under the bill, the national monument would span 22,000 acres with the majority of the acreage east of the Arkansas River and south of Nathrop. The bill would also designate 10,500 acres of wilderness.
Nine days later, Udall calls on the BLM to challenge mining claims in the Arkansas River near his proposed Browns Canyon National Monument.
In July, the U.S. Senate Parks Subcommittee endorses Udall’s bill and forwards it to the full committee.
On Nov. 25, after losing his re-election bid to Republican Cory Gardner, Udall asks President Obama to consider using the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate Browns Canyon as a national monument. Sen. Michael Bennett (D) joins the call for Obama to take executive action.
Udall, Bennet and federal land management officials appear Dec. 6 during a public meeting at the Salida SteamPlant with an estimated 700 people in attendance. The vast majority of attendees show support for the designation.
On Feb. 19, President Obama signs the proclamation making Browns Canyon a national monument encompassing 21,586 acres. The monument includes 11,836 acres of the San Isabel National Forest and 9,750 acres of Bureau of Land Management land.
On July 18, Browns Canyon is officially dedicated as a national monument at a ceremony in Buena Vista. In attendance are key members of Friends of Browns Canyon, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, U.S. Sen. Bennet, Gov. John Hickenlooper, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, BLM Director Neil Kornze, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, local politicians and about 700 people.