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BoCC supports National Monument status at Chimney Rock

In a three-minute meeting on March 25, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners voiced agreement with U.S. Rep. John Salazar’s proposed legislation to make Chimney Rock Archaeological Site a National Monument, approving a letter supporting the effort.

Originally slated to be considered by the BoCC on April 6, a call from Salazar’s staff requesting the BoCC’s letter of position sooner necessitated the BoCC calling a special meeting on the matter.

While endorsing the proposed legislation, the letter requests that consideration be made concerning four topics — view shed, noise, Native American considerations and the proposed management plan.

In the letter, the BoCC agrees with language in the current draft of the proposed legislation that states that Chimney Rock offers views of the surrounding landscape in every direction, but continues the thinking, writing that the site is a visually-oriented resource and urging that legislative language should be strengthened to protect the view sheds within the control of the U.S. Forest Service.

Similarly, the BoCC asked that additional considerations be made concerning land within control of the USFS to protect the site from noise, such as from gas compressor stations, and oil and gas operations.

Access to cultural resources for area Native American tribes also made the list of considerations following meetings between the BoCC and representatives of the Jicarilla Apache Nation.

“... the Tribal Council expressed interest in being able to have reasonable access to plants and materials within the National Monument boundaries for traditional medicines purposes as well as for use in native crafts, such as basketry,” the letter states.

“I’m just really glad ... that we reached out to the tribes, the Jicarillas and also the Southern Utes, and got input from those tribes,” said Commissioner Clifford Lucero before voting in support of the letter. “It’s really important, I think, to involve all our neighbors.”

The last of the considerations concerns the timeline for the creation of the potential monument’s management plan. The latest draft of the legislation specifies that a management plan be created within five years, a timeline the BoCC hopes to speed up.

“We would respectfully request that the management plan be completed no later than 3 years after the date of enactment. Our community is very excited about the prospect of the National Monument designation and would like to arrive at the completion of the management plan as soon as possible,” the letter states.

Chimney Rock is currently controlled by the USFS on 4,100 acres of Forest Service property. The site contains numerous structures which date back over 1,000 years, left by the Ancestral Puebloan People. In 1970, the site was designated an Archaeological Area and National Historic Site.

randi@pagosasun.com