Chimney Rock National Monument now!

A public meeting Friday in Pagosa Springs concerns the proposal to make the Chimney Rock Archaeological Area a national monument. The meeting will be held from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the Archuleta Fairgrounds.

Chimney Rock is perhaps the most important cultural site managed by the Forest Service. It is an important part of the extensive Chacoan cultural build-up of Puebloan people that began in the A.D. 800s and lasted more than 300 years. It is still of great importance to the living Puebloan cultures of the region.

With more than 200 dwellings, and several ceremonial sites, the Chimney Rock area is not only an impressive natural feature, but amazing historically and culturally.

Designated an archaeological area and national historic site in 1970, for the last decade it has been the focus of concerted effort by many people to see it designated as a national monument. Lately, this effort has gained significant steam. Bills proposing national monument status have been introduced by U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, as well as a separate bill by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez. These bills have received overwhelming support locally.

Monument status would increase the visibility of the site, encouraging more visitors and help to support the region’s economy. It would also give support to efforts to properly steward the site, preserving this national treasure for future generations. Archuleta County deserves the support of all of us in its efforts toward designation of the site as a national monument.

The Trail of the Ancients covers the cultural sites in southeastern Utah, northeast Arizona and Montezuma County in Colorado. Chimney Rock would be a valuable addition, bringing attention to the eastern part of the area.

Because of the difficulties in getting any legislation through the current Congress, the push for national monument status has now shifted to asking President Barack Obama to designate the site through the Antiquities Act. Passed in 1906 during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, the bill has been used to protect such sites as the Grand Tetons, Chaco Canyon, Hovenweep and, more recently, Canyons of the Ancients.

Chimney Rock, with its important historical and cultural significance, is a perfect example of what the act was intended to protect.

Please support national monument designation by attending the meeting Friday, letting Bennet, Udall and Tipton know your support, and urging Obama to take action.

Chimney Rock is a unique and important asset that we should all work to preserve and support, and by doing so, we will also gain economically, educationally and culturally. Dan Randolph is executive director of the San Juan Citizens Alliance.