NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Colorado gets new national monument thanks to President Obama; will Washington be next?

Ear­li­er today, with the stroke of a pen, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma trans­formed one of Col­orado’s most beloved and best known sights — pre­vi­ous­ly pro­tect­ed as Chim­ney Rock Archae­o­log­i­cal Area — into Chim­ney Rock Nation­al Mon­u­ment, exer­cis­ing his author­i­ty under the Antiq­ui­ties Act of 1906.

The move brings the site one step clos­er to the cov­et­ed sta­tus of nation­al park, which can only be con­ferred by an act of Con­gress. (Not sur­pris­ing­ly, nation­al mon­u­ments tend to be the best can­di­dates for new nation­al parks, con­sid­ered to be the crown jew­els of Amer­i­ca’s nation­al parks sys­tem).

In a procla­ma­tion signed by the Pres­i­dent, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion laid out the rea­sons why the site is worth pro­tect­ing:

The Chim­ney Rock site in south­west­ern Col­orado incor­po­rates spir­i­tu­al, his­toric, and sci­en­tif­ic resources of great val­ue and sig­nif­i­cance.  A thou­sand years ago, the vast Cha­co civ­i­liza­tion was drawn to the site’s soar­ing mas­sive rock pin­na­cles, Chim­ney Rock and Com­pan­ion Rock, that rise hun­dreds of feet from the val­ley floor to an ele­va­tion of 7,600 feet.  High atop ancient sand­stone for­ma­tions, Ances­tral Pueblo Peo­ple built exquis­ite stone build­ings, includ­ing the high­est cer­e­mo­ni­al “great house” in the South­west.

This land­scape, encom­pass­ing both Chim­ney Rock and Com­pan­ion Rock, and known today as Chim­ney Rock, holds deep spir­i­tu­al sig­nif­i­cance for mod­ern Pueblo and trib­al com­mu­ni­ties and was one of the largest com­mu­ni­ties of the Pueblo II era (900 1150 A.D.).  The Chim­ney Rock site also includes nation­al­ly sig­nif­i­cant archae­ol­o­gy, archaeoas­tron­o­my, visu­al and land­scape char­ac­ter­is­tics, and geo­log­i­cal and bio­log­i­cal fea­tures, as well as objects of deep cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al val­ue.

A cel­e­bra­tion is being held today at Chim­ney Rock to com­mem­o­rate its des­ig­na­tion as a nation­al mon­u­ment. Sen­a­tor Michael Ben­net, Inte­ri­or Sec­re­tary Ken Salazar, and Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Tom Vil­sack are slat­ed to speak.

Ahead of the cel­e­bra­tion, Ben­net issued a state­ment mark­ing the occa­sion.

“This is the cul­mi­na­tion of years of hard work and team work by Col­oradans who rec­og­nize Chim­ney Rock for the spec­tac­u­lar site that it is,” Ben­net said.  “When the local com­mu­ni­ties asked me to engage in these efforts, I was thrilled to take their mes­sage to Wash­ing­ton. Chim­ney Rock is more than an amaz­ing geo­log­ic for­ma­tion. It is full of extra­or­di­nary cul­tur­al, his­tor­i­cal and archae­o­log­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance. The president’s procla­ma­tion will help pre­serve, pro­tect, and restore the site and will help boost Colorado’s tourism at a crit­i­cal time.”

The All Indi­an Pueblo Coun­cil also applaud­ed the announce­ment. Chan­dler Sanchez, the group’s chair­man, com­mend­ed the Pres­i­dent for estab­lish­ing the mon­u­ment.

“The sto­ry of my tribe, the Pueblo of Aco­ma, and our his­to­ry is inti­mate­ly con­nect­ed to Chim­ney Rock. This place is still sacred to my peo­ple, and we are glad to see it will now be pro­tect­ed for our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren,” he said.

Chim­ney Rock is only the third nation­al mon­u­ment Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has cre­at­ed dur­ing his first term in office. But hope­ful­ly it won’t be the last.

Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell and Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Rick Larsen of our state are lead­ing the charge to get Pres­i­dent Oba­ma to agree to cre­ate a new nation­al mon­u­ment in Wash­ing­ton, in the San Juan Islands, that would pro­tect near­ly a thou­sand acres of land already owned by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and cur­rent­ly admin­is­tered by the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment (BLM).

Cantwell and Larsen, along with Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray, have writ­ten to Pres­i­dent Oba­ma in sup­port of the pro­posed mon­u­ment.

The BLM lands include sev­er­al dozen sites on major islands like San Juan and Orcas, along with all of Patos Island and sub­stan­tial tracts on Stu­art and Lopez Islands.

More than one hun­dred local busi­ness­es have endorsed the effort to get the coun­ty’s BLM lands pro­tect­ed as a nation­al con­ser­va­tion area or nation­al mon­u­ment. All that is need­ed now is for the pres­i­dent to act.

We at NPI strong­ly encour­age the White House to take up this mat­ter as soon as pos­si­ble. There’s no rea­son to wait. Pro­tect­ing pub­lic lands is one of the most impor­tant lega­cies that a pres­i­dent can leave. We would not have the great nation­al parks sys­tem we have today were it not for the courage of past pres­i­dents like Ted­dy Roo­sevelt, Franklin Delano Roo­sevelt, or Jim­my Carter.

The Antiq­ui­ties Act exists so that pres­i­dents can bypass leg­isla­tive grid­lock and pro­tect impor­tant places like the sev­en­ty-five plus sites in the San Juans under BLM juris­dic­tion. There’s no dis­put­ing that our cur­rent Con­gress is among the most inef­fec­tive and unre­spon­sive Con­gress­es in Amer­i­can his­to­ry.

By cre­at­ing a San Juans Nation­al Mon­u­ment, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma could ensure that some of our state’s most beau­ti­ful shore­line is pre­served for future gen­er­a­tions.

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2 Comments

  1. Chim­ney Rock Nation­al His­toric Site is a dif­fer­ent site in Nebras­ka. The site Pres­i­dent Oba­ma made into a Nation­al Mon­u­ment was for­mer­ly Chim­ney Rock Archae­o­log­i­cal Area in Col­orado.

    # by Zack :: September 23rd, 2012 at 4:05 PM
    • Thanks for the cor­rec­tion. Fixed that ref­er­ence.

      # by Andrew :: September 24th, 2012 at 8:34 AM