Colorado’s Chimney Rock Named National Monument

This past Friday, as part of his America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, President Obama signed legislation that officially designated Colorado’s Chimney Rock a national monument. The move extends permanent federal protection to the site, and 4700 acres surrounding it, all of which are located inside the San Juan National Forest.

At the center of the new monument is the 315-foot-tall rock spire that dominates the landscape and covers more than 1000 acres by itself. But this natural stone formation, which can be seen for miles in all directions, also happens to be the location for an important archaeological site. Chimney Rock was once home to a thriving community of Pueblo Indians who first inhabited the area about 1000 years ago. Remnants of that community remain today, with over 200 small dwellings, as well as some larger workspaces and ceremonial structures, still in place. It is believed that at its peak, the site was home to more than 2000 people.

In July of this year, an economic survey was conducted by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to determine the impact of designating Chimney Rock a national monument. That study found that not only would there be a sharp increase in the number of visitors to the site but those additional visitors would also mean more revenue for the surrounding communities. The study indicated that the local economy could see an annual boost of as much as $1.2 million in the years ahead.

[Photo credit: Kevin Moloney/New York Times]

President Obama outlines plan for America’s Great Outdoors

President Obama took time out from his very busy schedule yesterday to offer details of his America’s Great Outdoors program, a new plan designed to preserve the country’s national parks and other open spaces, while reconnecting Americans to nature.

The plan, which was originally announced last year, has been refined over the past ten months by a series of “listening sessions” during which Administration officials learned what has worked and what hasn’t, on a local, grassroots level, across the country. The result is a road map for the future of America’s outdoor natural resources that includes creating new parks and green spaces for future generations of Americans to enjoy. The initiative also includes options for restoring rivers and opening up the lands around them for recreational purposes and offering support to farmers and other landowners who work to protect their landscapes and make them available for recreation as well.

The America’s Great Outdoors program was immediately hailed as a positive move by environmental organizations and outdoor groups across the country. For instance, Tom Kiernan, president of the National Parks Conservation Association, called the President’s announcements “a great first step towards ensuring our national parks, wildlife, and American heritage is better protected for future generations.” But Kiernan went on to stress that the Administration now has a lot of work ahead of it to achieve the goals it has set for the program.

The NPCA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect America’s national parks from threats such as climate change and air pollution in advance of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016. America’s national park system has been called our “best idea” and the NPCA hope to ensure that they’re around for at least another century as well. For more on the NPCA’s position on the AGO, and the role that national parks will play in it, click here. And to find out more about President Obama’s initiatives, check out the America’s Great Outdoors website by clicking here. You can also access the full AGO report by clicking here.

As a big fan of America’s national parks, I’m happy to hear that the Administration has put its full weight behind protecting them for future generations as well as creating new parks for us all to enjoy as well. More outdoor space for the public to explore sounds like a very good thing.