After meeting

From left, Colorado Department of Natural Resources Deputy Director Bob Randall, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Sen. Mark Udall, Bureau of Land Management Deputy Director Steve Ellis and Sen. Michael Bennet stand outside the Salida SteamPlant Saturday following a public meeting about Browns Canyon.

Of the past 20 national monuments created, 18 of those were established by presidential proclamation under the Antiquities Act of 1906.

Steve Ellis, deputy director of the Bureau of Land Management, said after Saturday’s meeting that given past experience, it’s not unusual for a president to use the Antiquities Act to create a national monument.

Ellis and Thomas Tidwell, chief of the U.S. Forest Service, who was also present at the session at Salida SteamPlant, will be making their recommendations to President Barack Obama on whether or not to use the Antiquities Act to designate a national monument at Browns Canyon.

If Obama makes the designation, Ellis said before a resource management plan can be created, an environmental assessment or an environmental impact study would have to be done, work that could take up to a year to complete.

“There would be full public participation in the process,” he said, in developing a management plan for a national monument.

Final decisions on the management plan, he said, would be left to line officers of agencies involved, in this case the BLM, Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Generally what goes into a management plan to start with, Ellis said, is what is included in the proclamation, language in the U.S. Senate bill proposed by Sen. Mark Udall and values established through public meetings.

As Saturday’s panel members prepared to take a group photo with the Arkansas River as background, Tidwell said it could take up to 2 years to create a management plan for Browns, should Obama designate the area a national monument.

He reiterated that creating a management plan would be a transparent, public process.

Tidwell said that only existing legal uses relating to Browns Canyon can be used in creating a national monument for the area.

He said that national monument status for Browns would not mean that federal agencies would be able to take over water rights, for example, a concern noted during the public comment period.

Tidwell said much of the work has already been done through the legislative process in drafting the Senate bill.

Udall said if Obama designates Browns a national monument, the county and region already have a template to develop a management plan for Browns Canyon in the effort to create the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area in the late 1980s, early 1990s.

He said the AHRA management plan involved the state parks department, the BLM and stakeholders including commercial rafters, anglers, property owners and local governments.

That process, he said, worked well in creating AHRA.

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