Chimney Rock, a unique geological and archological site in the San Juan Forest of southwestern Colorado, has been named a National Monument by the Obama administration.
The site covers 4,726 acres of land and Chimney Rock itself stretches 300 feet over the surrounding landscape. It marks the third national monument President Obama has designated since taking office. National monuments are similar to national parks in that they are managed by the U.S. National Park Service; however, national monuments are declared by presidential mandate. Parks are established by legislation in Congress. Chimney Rock is the 5th site to be named a National Monument in Colorado and will recieve federal protection and oversight.
“Thousands of people come here every year to experience the cultural, and spiritual significance of Chimney Rock,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilscak.
Vilsack made the announcement at the monument itself, outside of Durango. Vilsak also noted the economic advantages of the site reaching a national audience. Cololardo is a key battleground state, and the announcement comes less than 50 days before the presidential election.
The site is the historic homeland of the Pueblo people, dating back 1,000 years. The Ute reservation encompasses the monument, which holds spiritual and cultural significance for a number of Native American tribes. The U.S. Forest Service will work alongside tribal leaders to advance the preservation of archeological sites within the monument. Archeological surveys have revealed the presense of prehistoric villages dating back about 1,000 years.
Rep. Scott Tipton, along with Senators Michael Bennett and Mark Udall wrote a letter to President Obama this summer advocating for the site to be declared a National Monument after a similar effort failed to pass through congress. Both Tipton and Bennett introduced bills in the House and Senate which had bipartisan support, but a small group of lawmakers blocked the bill from passing the Senate.
President Obama was able to override Congress through powers granted by the Antiquities Act of 1906, which allows presidents to create National Monuments through executive order.