May 21, 2012

Presidential Politics and Brown's Canyon on the Arkansas

I read various articles on politics saying that Colorado is "in play" for the 2012 presidential election, like some extra effort will be made for our nine electoral votes, which went for Obama in 2008 but which might be pried loose by Gov. Romney this November.

That connects with a long-standing effort to create a national monument on the Arkansas River in Chaffee County: the Brown's Canyon National Monument—or whatever it would be called. (Unlike the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, my keyboard has a working apostrophe.)

This is the one reach of the river that flows through roadless public lands (BLM and Forest Service on both sides). It's a wildly popular (i.e., often crowded) rafting/kayaking piece of water. About 20,000 acres would be designated.

And at least some outfitters that I have talked to would love to be able to advertise a trip through a designated monument/wilderness area.

Colorado Senator Mark Udall has been conducting hearings in the area and making supportive noises. Ken Salazar did too, when he was senator. This issue has a history.

The monument would still be administered by the Forest Service and BLM somehow, I am told, not by the National Park Service.

There has been opposition from the drive-everywhere motorized-recreationists, but with whitewater rafting a big economic contributor to Chaffee County, the pro-monument people can point to economic benefits.

But Congressman Doug Lamborn, in whose district the proposed monument lies, is not on board with this or any other new national monument or wilderness area. He is more in the "Drill, baby, drill" camp.

So Congressional approval is unlikely. But the president has the power to create a monument under the Antiquities Act of 1906. President Clinton used that power toward the end of his final term. So did President Bush in 2006.

In Clinton's case, creating monuments in Utah did not win him mass approval there, but it played well elsewhere.  

Likewise, President Obama has already used that power.

At the White House, I am sure that they see "environmentalists" as one undifferentiated mass, more likely to vote Democratic. They have already tried to keep that mass of voters on their side with the no-but-yes dance over the Keystone Pipeline—thus alienating workers who might build it. (So much for the Democrats as the workingman's party.)

Since Colorado is "in play" (and the Keystone Pipeline would not run through this state), how about another high-visibility monument designation to make Colorado environmentalists feel good about the current incumbent, who is lagging in some polls?

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