Salida at what was essentially a 500-person pep rally for the proposed Brown's Canyon National Monument in Chaffee County.
With me was fellow Backcountry Hunters & Anglers member Paul Vertrees.
Like a few others, this "monument" would not involve the National Park Service but be managed by the agencies currently involved: the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).
There are two stories here. One is political theatre and process, and one is about changes in conservation rhetoric.
1. Wilderness protection and national monument designation proposals for this stretch of the Arkansas River, where it runs through mostly public land away from any highways and railroads, have been floating around since the 1980s, at least.
Last year, as I blogged, Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) introduced a new bill to make this wilderness study area into a national monument that would still allow grazing, hunting, fishing etc.
Then came the 2014 elections. Udall, much to his surprise (I am guessing), lost his seat. Given Congress's preoccupations, his bill's chances don't look good, despite support from most of the Colorado delegation.
Hence Plan B: Have the president designate the national monument under the Teddy Roosevelt-era Antiquities Act. Such designation would be legal, constitutional, and has been upheld by the courts.
To make the case for that, Udall roped in our other senator, Michael Bennett, plus the chief of the U.S. Forest Service and the assistant directors of the BLM and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.
They sat at a long table while listening to hours of testimony from local governments (the towns of Salida and Buena Vista, plus Chaffee and Saguache counties), business owners, conservationists, rafters, hunters, etc., 99.5 percent of whom said executive designation would be a Good Thing. Which brings me to . . . .
2. Last year I briefly mentioned the new "veterans for wilderness" movement, as shown in this Wilderness Society article, "Veterans want to protect the public lands that help them heal." We heard testimony from, for example, the Veterans Expeditions group, which takes vets rafting and camping in the canyon.
This year they were jointed by T-shirted members and former members of a group called (if I have it right) Hispanic Access Foundation, which takes kids from metro Denver on outdoor trips, including rafting Brown's Canyon.
They spoke of seeing starry skies for the first time in their lives, of being out of the city for the first time in their lives, and some hope was expressed by adults that some of these kids might seek careers in natural-resources management.
Who could argue with that? Well, possibly the staffer from Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs), who claimed that an executive proclamation would be a "top-down" action foisted on an unknowing population.
Let's see, I attended my first public hearing on this matter in Buena Vista when Senator Ken Salazar hosted it, and he left office in 2009 . . . and that was just one of several.
I hope that what he heard from local government and business types, in particular, might persuade him otherwise, but you never know.
Meantime, we await the judgment of our performance from the critics who matter.