PAGE 4 — THE MOUNTAIN MAIL — SALIDA, COLORADO — WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25, 2012
Top 5 reasons canyon should be protected
by Nikol Noll
• Browns Canyon should be protected for wildlife.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has determined the area pro- vides important habitat for black bear, bighorn sheep, mule deer, mountain lions, eagles, peregrine falcons, imperiled bats and other species.
Most of the U.S. Forest Service segment is managed as big game winter range. When higher elevations are cold and snowy, game move into lower elevations for food, water and shelter in deep gulches.
A Bureau of Land Management segment has been deemed an “area of critical environmental concern” due to its scenic value and importance to wildlife. Wildlife need areas of unfrag- mented habitat to prosper, and Browns Canyon provides this.
• Protecting the area would preserve existing recreational opportunities.
Many people live in this area because of its incredible access to outdoor recreation. Rafters, boaters, hikers, fishermen, horseback riders and hunters all enjoy this area.
Rugged formations have been carved through centuries in stunning pink granite and metamorphic rock and provide awe- inspiring experiences for visitors and locals alike.
Drawn by spectacular box can- yons, towering rocky spires and impressive cliffs in the river canyon and east of the river, recreationists return again and again. Protecting Browns Canyon will ensure users will continue to have access and enjoy it for years to come.
• People, pols and agencies want this area protected.
Thousands of individuals, more than 30 local organizations and more than 130 local businesses have gone on record to support per- manent protection of this area.
Six recent Chaffee County com- missioners have supported more permanent protection.
In 1976, the BLM identified some of the area’s significant primitive and/or wilderness qualities and designated that por- tion as a Wilderness Study Area in 1993.
Bills proposing to protect the area as wilderness have been introduced by Reps. Joel Hefley (R-Colorado Springs) and Diana DeGette (D-Aurora). Republican Sen. Wayne Allard and the entire Colorado congressional delegation supported Hefley’s bill.
Colorado Sen. Mark Udall has noted interest in protecting this area and has started a public process seeking input for further protection.
In 2011, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar released a report placing Browns Canyon on a list of 19 areas of BLM-managed land nationwide deserving immediate attention by Congress for further protection.
• Protecting Browns Canyon would preserve a vital compo- nent of local economy.
Tourism is the basis of local economy. Most Chaffee County visitors come to participate in outdoor recreation. The Colora- do Tourism Office (colorado.com/dean-runyan) reports tourism brings in $750 million in state and local taxes and results in the average family of four paying $600 per year less in taxes.
Ben Alexander from Headwaters Economics recently visited to discuss a study he conducted on economic impacts of nation- al monument designation.
All 17 areas studied experienced continued or increased growth in per-capita income and employment.
Chaffee County unemployment is hovering around 7.5 per- cent, and many families struggle to make a living. While this proposal would not be an end-all solution to economic chal- lenges, it will be one arrow in our quiver.
• Protection would help ward off threats the area faces.
Without additional protection, there are no guarantees this area will continue to be managed for future generations. Land management plans change, and there is a trend in federal and state legislatures to sell off public lands for agriculture and development.
One example, H.R. 1581, the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act, known as The Great Outdoors Giveaway, would eliminate the forest service roadless rule protecting more than 58 million acres of national forest roadless lands and 6.7 mil- lion acres of BLM Wilderness Study Areas.
Unmanaged recreation has been identified as a major threat to public lands. For example, in areas of Browns Canyon unau- thorized motorized recreation is destroying vegetation, dis- placing wildlife, eroding landscape and negatively impacting resources and other users.
Protecting Browns Canyon is an intelligent way to plan “smart growth.” Colorado population is expected to double by 2050.
Instead of allowing this area to deteriorate so it no longer has wildlife habitat and recreation values we now enjoy, we have the chance to be proactive and preserve and enhance these values for future generations.
Salida resident Nikol Noll is the campaign organizer for Friends of Browns Canyon.