After 18 months of collaboration with sportsmen, recreation leaders, Chaffee County officials, businesses and residents, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced legislation today that would designate Browns Canyon on the Arkansas River as a national monument. It’s a project that has been a personal passion for Udall and especially the state’s paddlers for some time now.
The bill would establish protections over 22,000 acres that would help maintain the quality of hunting and fishing habitat around the canyon as well as the much-recreated Arkansas River. Given the flexible nature of monuments, undeveloped portions of the area would be designated as Wilderness and less stringent protections would be placed on the rest of the area, encouraging public use and recreation.
“The Arkansas is the most popular rafting river in the country. I’ve spent many years guiding raft and fishing trips on the Arkansas and spending time in Browns Canyon is a highlight of any trip,” said Bill Dvorak, a longtime outfitter and organizer for Sportsmen for Brown’s Canyon. “Protecting Browns Canyon would maintain an important, sustainable part of the area economy. Just as important is protecting air and water quality and wildlife and fish habitat at a time when increasing population and development are creating more demands on public lands.”
Browns Canyon, located just south of Buena Vista, has long been known for it’s stunning fishery, but its value to big game is equally important. Mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep and other large predators such as black bear make good use of this lower elevation territory. Raptors and other wildlife also abound.
On average, hunters and anglers spend about $36 million in Chaffee County alone each year, contributing to Colorado’s $2 billion hunting and fishing economy.
“Browns is easily accessible from a number of points a few miles from the towns of Salida or Buena Vista and a two hour drive from Colorado’s Front Range,” said Colorado Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Co-Chair David Lien.
Dvorak says Udall plans to introduce the bill early next week in the Senate, at which point it goes to committee. Assuming smooth sailing there, the bill will be on the docket for full Senate approval. Dvorak and other supporters are hoping Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) in the House will sponsor the bill there.
As one of the most treasured landscapes in Colorado, Browns Canyon is also one of the least protected, said Suzanne O’Neil of the Colorado Wildlife Federation.
“Colorado Wildlife Federation appreciates Senator Udall’s steadfast approach during the past year for ascertaining and embracing local community views on how to conserve this jewel for future generations,” she said.
For more information on the coalition to protect Browns Canyon go to