The Arkansas River rolls through Browns Canyon near Salida. (AP file)

The Arkansas River rolls through Browns Canyon near Salida. (AP file)

It’s no secret where The Denver Post stands on a national monument designation for Browns Canyon, given the ample ink and column inches it’s given to those backing the idea.

But as someone who knows Browns Canyon well but believes a monument designation would be the fastest and surest way to ruin it, let me offer a few points in rebuttal.

Monument-backers know Browns Canyon has been managed since 1980 as a wilderness study area. That’s just about the highest level of protection a piece of federal land can get. Any additional “protections” aren’t just redundant, they’re also potentially ruinous, since they’ll most likely degrade the serenity of the place by drawing more crowds while adding nothing but more federal meddling and red tape.

“National monument” status may attract more tourists, which is why so many nearby merchants are on board. But given the proliferating number of new national monuments designated by legacy-seeking recent presidents, and the watering-down of the “brand” this brings, one has to wonder if they’re really such a draw.

If Browns Canyon rates as a national monument, almost any Western landscape does. All these politically motivated designations do is further blur distinctions between the “crown jewels” and the costume jewelry.

Designation-pushers promote the perception that support for this is universal in Chaffee County. But objections have been voiced by local stakeholders, including ranchers, a water district (which fears the possible impact on water rights) and locals who oppose any more road closures and access restrictions. The congressman representing that district, Doug Lamborn, also knows there are local divisions, which is one reason he’s taken a principled stand against designation.

Promises made today about preserving all existing uses aren’t worth anything, because federal land policy isn’t really made by politicians or bureaucrats. Litigious green groups use lawsuits and friendly judges to set the agenda, which is to overturn multiple-use management and restrict public access as much as possible. They’ll have a stronger case for doing that if Browns Canyon becomes a national monument.

Why the sudden rush to ram through a change this significant for an already protected piece of land? Isn’t it something our elected representatives in Washington and at the statehouse ought to debate, before President Obama waves his magic pen and forever changes Browns Canyon?

Sean Paige lives in Colorado Springs.

Reposted by Reagangirl.com  1/24/15