Petition pushes Obama on Chimney Rock

DENVER – Supporters of President Barack Obama urged him Thursday to bypass Congress and declare Chimney Rock a national monument, along with four other spots in the Mountain West.

The U.S. House of Representatives already has passed a bill by Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, to designate Chimney Rock, an ancestral Puebloan site near Pagosa Springs, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., has a similar bill that is awaiting action in the Senate.

On Thursday, activists delivered a petition to Obama’s state campaign headquarters in Denver urging him to use his presidential power to create national monuments at Chimney Rock and Brown’s Canyon, a popular rafting spot on the Arkansas River. They also want to see three new monuments in New Mexico and Nevada.

Supporters included Aron Ralston, who inspired the film “127 Hours,” about his solo wilderness trek during which he had to cut off his hand to free it from a boulder.

Ralston worked a season as a rafting guide in Brown’s Canyon.

“The time is now to protect these places. President Obama, please do the thing that we’re asking you to do with this petition, which is to put these places aside for future posterity,” Ralston said.

Alan Franklin of ProgressNow Colorado, which ran the petition drive, said that there is already bipartisan support for designating Chimney Rock as a national monument.

“However, as I’m sure you know, we’ve had a lot of gridlock in Washington, D.C., over the last few years, so we want to make sure that all of our bets are covered and we have advocated in every responsible way to get this actually done as opposed to merely discussed,” Franklin said.

Tipton said he’s honored to work with Bennet on Chimney Rock.

“I’m hopeful that the Senate will act soon and remain open to a community-driven conversation to use all options on the table to advance this important effort across the finish line,” Tipton said in an email.

Most of the 1,500 petition-signers were Obama campaign volunteers, and Franklin said Obama could energize his supporters by declaring national monuments.

“It’s a win politically for President Obama, and it’s a win for Colorado’s economy,” he said.

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