Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients will remain protected

Author: Peter Marcus - July 21, 2017 - Updated: July 21, 2017

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

Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients National Monument near Cortez is no longer under review and will remain protected, federal officials announced on Friday.

The historic cultural landscape was under review per an executive order by President Trump, which could have meant it would have lost its critical monument status. But Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who is speaking in Denver on Friday, announced that the landscape would remain protected.

“When the President and I began the monument review process we absolutely realized that not all monuments are the same and that not all monuments would require modifications,” Zinke said in a statement. “Canyons of the Ancients is gorgeous land, but its monument status as the most high-density Native American archaeological sites in the nation is clear. The history at this site spans thousands of years, and the federal protection of these objects and history will help us preserve this site for a thousand more years.”

Several members of Colorado’s congressional delegation, along with Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, had urged the Trump administration not to change its national monument status. The elected officials representing Colorado had received assurances that the monument would remain protected, though certainty was not issued until Friday.

The southwest Colorado monument offers a journey through history, as visitors travel back in time to learn about ancestral Puebloan culture and the area’s fragile resources near the Four Corners region. The landscape received national monument status in 2000, protecting its 178,000 acres.

“This is great news for Colorado and I’m thrilled the Department of the Interior listened to Coloradans and will make no changes to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument’s designation,” said U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican.

“I repeatedly raised the issue with Secretary Zinke and highlighted the fact that Coloradans cherish our state’s public lands and any review of Canyons of the Ancients should result in no changes to the monument’s designation. The Secretary has been a great partner throughout his tenure and understands Western issues better than most. I’m proud to have worked with him on this and look forward to continuing to collaborate on issues important to Colorado in the future.”

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican who is from Cortez and represents the district the monument is located in, said Zinke recognized the cultural and historic significance.

“Senator Gardner and I made the case for maintaining the monument as is in May, and I have been encouraged to see the secretary place a high value on local input throughout this process,” Tipton said.

Peter Marcus

Peter Marcus

Peter Marcus is senior statehouse reporter for Colorado Politics. He covers the legislature and previously covered politics, the governor’s office, the legislature and Congress for The Durango Herald. He joined The Herald in 2014 from The Colorado Statesman, a Denver-based political weekly. The Washington Post twice named Marcus one of the nation’s top state-based political and legislative reporters.