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‘Conserve what’s best about the Dolores’

Aaron Kindle

The Dolores Canyons region in western Colorado is a quintessential western landscape – high, wide and wild. Dolores country is home to a diverse array of wildlife, from mountain lions and turkey to elk and mule deer. Designating the Dolores Canyons as a national monument would ensure the habitat that supports these critters will remain intact and the opportunities we enjoy today will persist for future generations.

One of the primary benefits of designating it as a national monument is the protection it would afford to the area’s wildlife, including deer, elk and desert bighorn sheep. By designating these lands as a national monument, we can ensure that big game and other wildlife can continue to utilize intact habitat and migrate uninterrupted between their summer and winter ranges.

A monument designation supports what hunters have been working on for several years now: the conservation of quality winter range and secure migration corridors – something the Dolores country has in abundance. It should also be noted that nothing about a monument designation usurps any valid existing rights.

Because of the benefits for wildlife, a national monument designation for the Dolores Canyons would then provide important benefits for hunters. I have personally worked for several years to ensure hunting remains on the landscape in national monuments across the country. The Dolores would be no different.

There will be specific language ensuring that hunting remains – just as in several other recently designated national monuments such as Bears Ears in Utah, Avi Kwa Ame in Nevada, and the Rio Grande National Monument in New Mexico. Further, in each of these places, along with a Dolores monument, the state fish and wildlife agency will retain management authority over wildlife and the regulation of hunting.

Designating the Dolores Canyons as a national monument will ensure that the number one thing wildlife need – high quality habitat – remains intact, viable and healthy in perpetuity. That’s something every hunter should want and be proud to pass onto our kids and their kids.

As a lifelong Westerner and sportsman, I have witnessed the loss of so many important landscapes, places I know and love where hunting, fishing and camping used to be plentiful but are now either highly degraded or completely unusable. I want Dolores country to be saved from this fate. And sure, will a monument place a spotlight on the area that those of us who long for solitude may not love at first? Likely, but we need to put aside our immediate desires and conserve what’s best about the Dolores.

In the long run, we must ensure that the Dolores gets the attention, resources and love it deserves so that in 50, 75,or 100 years, future generations will still be able to hear the scream of a bull elk or the gobble of a turkey.

Over a life of living in the West and my long career in conservation, I regret most that I didn’t fight harder for the now-vanished places of my childhood. There’s a reason Mark Twain said, “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” The same is true for the American West: They’re not making it anymore. In a time when the pressure on natural resources is ever growing, conserving and protecting our most valuable landscapes, like the Dolores, is an absolute must.

I urge Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, other members of Colorado’s congressional delegation, and the president to follow overwhelming public support and designate Dolores Canyons as Colorado’s newest national monument.

Aaron Kindle, director of sporting advocacy at the National Wildlife Federation, is an avid sportsman based in Salida.