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Canyons of the Ancients is safe, Hick says, but Trump administration says that isn’t final

Author: Joey Bunch - April 28, 2017 - Updated: June 15, 2017

Whether the Canyons of the Ancients is in the crosshairs to lose federal protections depends on who you believe, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Facebook page or the Trump administration.

Environmentalists are concerned about the possibility the 176,000-acre national monument in southwest Colorado is on a public lands hit list the Trump administration is working on.

Wednesday, Trump signed an executive order telling Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review all monuments of more than 100,000 acres that were designated since 1996.

The only one of eight national monuments in Colorado that fits that description in Colorado the Canyons of the Ancients set aside from drilling, mining and development by President Clinton in 2000.

Thursday night on his Facebook page, Hickenlooper said he and the governors of Nevada and Wyoming met with Zinke Wednesday. and Hickenlooper reassured his followers the Canyons of the Ancients was off Trump’s table. The Denver Post  reported on the Facebook post Friday morning.

“As a result of our long conversation, I have been reassured that it is unlikely any of Colorado’s monuments will be reviewed,” Hickenlooper wrote on his Facebook page. “Our meeting as a whole was very positive, and the Secretary committed to working with governors as equal partners.”

That partnership didn’t last to Friday, however. A spokeswoman for Zinke wouldn’t confirm Hickenlooper’s take-away from the meeting.

“No decision has been made yet,” the spokeswoman told the environmental site E&E News.

In a press briefing in Washington on Tuesday, the day before Trump signed the order, Zinke said it was Trump’s call.

“It’s undisputed the President has the authority to modify a monument,” Zinke said the day before he met with Hickenlooper and other governors in Washington, D.C. “It’s pretty premature to suggest we do the review in which I’m going to review and recommend to the president whether to rescind a monument completely or modify it. It is untested, as you know, whether the president can do that, but at this point, I haven’t gone through the list.”

Colorado Politics was not able to get a call back from the Department of Interior Friday to inquire further.

Hickenlooper’s spokeswoman said Friday afternoon the governor still feels relieved after meeting with Zinke,

“We recognize no decisions have been made, but the words expressed to the governor from Secretary Zinke did provide him reassurance to the concerns they discussed regarding Canyons of the Ancients National Monument,” said Hickenlooper’s spokeswoman, Jacque Montgomery.

Conservation Colorado, the state’s largest environmental, is closely watching the debate over national monuments and remains on guard for the Canyons of the Ancients.

“The track record of the Trump administration has been consistent flip-flopping, so we’re taking the threat both seriously and literally,” Scott Braden, Conservation Colorado’s public lands and wilderness advocate, said in a statement. “We stand ready and are preparing to defend our Colorado monuments and parks from any attack that may come down from Washington, D.C.”

Editor’s note: This story was corrected to say the review includes designations since 1996, not 2006.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.