Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Congressman Scott Tipton (CO-3) sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in support of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Southwest Colorado. In the letter, Gardner and Tipton state, “any review of Canyons should conclude that no changes to the designation are necessary.”

The full letter reads below:

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We write in support of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (Canyons) in Southwest Colorado. Canyons is a national monument being reviewed by the Department of the Interior pursuant to President Trump’s Executive Order 13792, and we believe any review of Canyons should conclude that no changes to the designation are necessary. 

Located near Mesa Verde National Park, Canyons was designated by Presidential Proclamation on June 9, 2000, and has the highest known archeological site density of any monument in the United States. With just over 6,000 sites already recorded, there are estimates that there may be between 20,000 and 30,000 sites within the boundaries of the monument. 

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) says about this area, “The archeological record etched into this landscape is much more than isolated islands of architecture. The more than 6,355 recorded sites reflect all the physical components of past human life: villages, field houses, check dams, reservoirs, great kivas, cliff dwellings, shrines, sacred springs, agricultural fields, petroglyphs, and sweat lodges. Some areas have more than 100 sites per square mile.

“Lands within and around the Monument have been used or inhabited by humans, including the Northern Ancestral Puebloan culture, for 10,000 years, and continue to be used by humans today. Historic uses of the Monument include recreation, hunting, livestock grazing, and energy development.”

The designation of Canyons is an example of what the Antiquities Act was intended to do – protect cultural treasures while incorporating the historic use of the land in to the management of the monument so that communities support and promote the designation.

It is also an example of consequences that are often not considered by administrations when contemplating these designations: existing funding levels are often times not adequate to support the increase in tourism a designation may bring with it; existing infrastructure that is incapable of accommodating the increased tourism; and land management agencies’ resources being diverted from traditional roles, like permitting of oil and gas or grazing leases to other functions necessary to maintain the monument. Fortunately, Montezuma County, Colorado, where Canyons is located, has forged ahead with BLM to make progress on many of these issues.

Coloradans respect and value our public lands, because we understand that our public lands system is unique among all the countries in the world. Canyons is a significant piece of that uniqueness given the history that is preserved there.

We hope this information is taken into consideration as you evaluate the designation of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, and urge you to protect the designation as it stands.  

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