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Bipartisan group of federal, state officials urge Trump to protect Colorado monument

Author: Adam McCoy - May 30, 2017 - Updated: June 20, 2017

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Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (BLM Photo)
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (BLM Photo)

As the White House continues its survey of dozens of national monument designations, a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers from Colorado and a state official have urged the Trump administration to protect the state’s lone site under review.

President Donald Trump ordered the Department of the Interior in late April to begin reviewing designations of national monuments created since 1996 that are greater than 100,000 acres. Past presidents have used the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate national monuments and protect significant natural and cultural lands.

The order was spurred by what Trump has seen as federal overreach. Trump called President Barack Obama’s creation of national monuments an “egregious abuse use of power” during the signing of the executive order, USA Today reported.” In Obama’s final days in office, he designated Bears Ear in southeastern Utah as a national monument.

This week, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton and Sen. Cory Gardner sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in support of the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Southwest Colorado, to ensure “any review of Canyons should conclude that no changes to the designation are necessary.”

Located near Mesa Verde National Park, Canyons was designated in June 2000, by then President Bill Clinton, and has the highest known archaeological site density of any monument in the country, the lawmakers say.

“The designation of Canyons is an example of what the Antiquities Act was intended to do — protect cultural treasures while incorporating the historic use of the land into the management of the monument so that communities support and promote the designation,” the lawmakers wrote.

The two pointed to a Bureau of Land Management statement on Canyons which said the archaeological record of the monument is significant.

“The more than 6,355 recorded sites reflect all the physical components of past human life: villages, field houses, check dams, reservoirs, great kivas, cliff dwellings, shrines, sacred springs, agricultural fields, petroglyphs, and sweat lodges,” the BLM wrote. “Some areas have more than 100 sites per square mile.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke arrives at the Butler Wash Indian Ruins trail head within Bears Ears National Monument in Utah on May 8, 2017, as supporters of the monument crowd the parking lot. Zinke will have tens of thousands of comments to potentially look over as he prepares a recommendation next month for President Donald Trump about whether the new Bears Ears National Monument and others should be preserved, downsized or rescinded. (Francisco Kjolseth /The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke arrives at the Butler Wash Indian Ruins trail head within Bears Ears National Monument in Utah on May 8, 2017, as supporters of the monument crowd the parking lot. Zinke will have tens of thousands of comments to potentially look over as he prepares a recommendation next month for President Donald Trump about whether the new Bears Ears National Monument and others should be preserved, downsized or rescinded. (Francisco Kjolseth /The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

In a separate letter this week from Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to Secretary Zinke, the leaders said the threat of rolling back monument protections is “worrisome to communities in Colorado and across the country.”

“National monuments across the country preserve our collective history, our culture, and our shared identity,” the two wrote.

Bennet and Hickenlooper also advocated for Bear Ears, which they said is the ancestral land of Western tribes including the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute in Colorado.

“Any steps to diminish protections for these public lands would be an affront to Coloradans and to future generations of Americans,” they said.

The executive order asks Zinke to conclude his national monuments reviews within 120 days, though it requests an interim report on Bears Ears within 45 days. Trump said, in the order, monument designations that were made without public outreach or coordination between governments create “barriers to achieving energy independence” and “curtail economic growth.”

After a meeting in April with Zinke and other governors from Western states, Hickenlooper said he believed Colorado’s national monument designations were safe .

adam@coloradostatesman.com

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy covers Denver-area politics for Colorado Politics.