Browns Canyon is Model for Landscape-Scale Conservation

Maintaining outdoor traditions, generating local sportsmen support must be key considerations for future national monument proposals, according to national report

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP)
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP)
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

Salida, CO -( Designation of the new, 21,586-acre Browns Canyon National Monument is delivering landscape-scale conservation benefits, continued hunting and angling opportunity, and economic payoffs, said sportsmen-conservation leaders at a gathering of decision-makers and journalists on the Arkansas River over the weekend.

Coloradans worked for more than 40 years to permanently conserve and protect the diverse terrain of Browns Canyon, which includes high alpine meadows and lakes, winter range in the pinon-juniper hills, habitat for iconic big game species, and the Arkansas River—one of Colorado’s most popular trout fisheries. The monument was formally designated on Feb. 19, 2015.

“The Arkansas River and Browns Canyon is a story about persistence and working together for the common good,” said Corey Fisher, senior policy director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. “Fixing water quality problems caused by historical mining pollution has taken decades of work and numerous partners, and the same can be said for finally achieving protection for Browns Canyon. Protecting and restoring Colorado’s longest Gold Medal trout fishery has required all of the tools in the tool box, including the Antiquities Act.”

Permanent protection of this area also safeguards the estimated $55 million in recreation spending that boosts central Colorado’s economy each year. “Maintaining public access to one of the most popular and iconic stretches of the Arkansas River is a major benefit for the well being of the upper Arkansas valley communities,” said Bob Hamel, owner of Arkansas River Tours in Cotopaxi and Canon City.

“The businesses in this area can now rest assured that Browns Canyon will remain a special place to share with locals and visitors.”

Last weekend’s media event, including speakers, roundtable discussions and field tours, was hosted in Browns Canyon by a coalition of sportsmen’s organizations and businesses that earlier this year released a national report, which lays out a new approach for creating national monuments with hunter and angler support.

“Hunters and anglers have come together in support of leveraging the federal Antiquities Act to permanently conserve landscapes important to fish, wildlife and sportsmen,” said John Gale, conservation director of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “Our report outlines a strategy for advancing national monument proposals that can be supported by our constituency. Browns Canyon National Monument, which encompasses wilderness-quality lands and waters that represent some of our most valuable backcountry hunting and angling opportunities, serves as a model for this approach.”

Judicious use of the Antiquities Act can be an effective method for protecting lands and waters of value in lieu of congressional action. It’s a tool that local sportsmen say was necessary to conserve Browns Canyon.

“I remember one time we had 900 people show up at a public meeting. Ninety-five percent of them wanted protection for Browns Canyon, but the politics just dragged on and on,” said Bill Dvorak, who owns Dvorak Rafting and Kayaking Expeditions and holds the first outfitter license ever issued by the state of Colorado. “Nobody could get any kind of conservation bill passed, even though this is the most popular whitewater river in Colorado – and not one other protected area in the state has the same diversity of wildlife.”

“National Monuments: A Sportsmen’s Perspective” outlines a series of tenets for creating national monuments aligned with the intent of the Antiquities Act. Also featured in the report are profiles of existing national monuments where sportsmen played a key role, including Browns Canyon and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico, where the report was officially released in January 2016.

To ensure the success of monuments, while improving highly valued habitat and sportsmen’s access, the 28 sporting groups and businesses backing the report call for local involvement in management decisions, a stakeholder-driven public process, multiple-use management, reasonable public access, state management of fish and wildlife resources and continued hunting and fishing opportunities, among other criteria.

Many national monuments offer world-class hunting and fishing. For that to continue, new proposals need to be locally driven, transparent, incorporate the science-based management and conservation of important fish and wildlife habitat, and uphold hunting and fishing opportunities.

For more information on Browns Canyon and finding common ground on public lands management, read “National Monuments: A Sportsmen’s Perspective.”

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Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing. Backcountry Hunters & Anglers seeks to ensure North America’s outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands and waters. Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting, and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds.

About Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership:

Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing. Ensuring sportsmen’s access to quality fish and wildlife habitat safeguards the $646-billion contribution that sportsmen make to the American economy.

For more information on the TRCP, please visit our website at