CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, May 15, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 2621, the Chimney Rock National Monument Establishment Act, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority for approval. The bill was introduced on July 21, 2011, by Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) and referred to the committee on Natural Resources, which held a mark up and reported the bill as amended by unanimous consent on April 25, 2012.
H.R. 2621 would establish the Chimney Rock National Monument in the San Juan National Forest in southern Colorado. The new monument would consist of 4,726 acres within the San Juan National Forest and would be administered by the Secretary of Agriculture in accordance with any laws generally applicable to the National Forest System. Under the bill, the Secretary would be required to allow for the continued use of the national monument by members of Indian tribes.
Under the bill, timber harvesting would only be allowed if the Secretary determined it was necessary for ecosystem restoration or the control of fire, insects, or diseases. In addition, the use of motor vehicles and mountain bikes would be limited to the roads and trails identified by the Secretary as appropriate. The Secretary would be required to permit grazing within the monument on lands where it was established before the legislation was enacted. The bill would require the Secretary to develop a management plan for the monument with three years of enactment of the legislation.
In addition, the legislation would authorize the Secretary to acquire land from willing sellers within the proposed boundary of the monument. Land may also be acquired through donation, purchase with donated or appropriated funds, transfer from another Federal agency, or by exchange. H.R. 2621 would withdrawal all land in the monument from operation of the mineral leasing, mineral materials, and geothermal leasing law. However, the land would not be withdrawn from the issuance of gas pipeline rights-of-way within easements in existence as of the date of the enactment of this Act. Finally, the bill would state that nothing would affect Colorado’s rights with respect to the management of fish and wildlife on public land in the state.
According to Committee Report 112-473, the Chimney Rock National Monument Establishment Act would designate 4,726 acres within the San Juan National Forest in southwestern Colorado as the Chimney Rock National Monument. The area is currently managed as the San Juan National Forest Archaeological Area in conjunction with the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association, which operates an interpretive program under a special-use permit from the U.S. Forest Service. The site currently hosts over 10,000 visitors annually. The legislation directs the Forest Service to manage the monument to “preserve, protect, and restore the archaeological, cultural, historic, geologic, hydrologic, natural, educational, and scenic resources of Chimney Rock,” as well as provide for public interpretation and recreation consistent with the monument designation.
There are more than 75 different units of the National Monument System, making up more than 1.8 million acres of federal land around the country. The National Monument System was originally established under the National Park System to recognize areas of the United States with “particularly distinctive visual, recreational, and cultural interest.” Many contain historical or archeological artifacts, but others are notable for their natural features or recreational opportunities. Many national monuments originally proclaimed by Presidents have subsequently been redesignated by Congress as national historic sites, national parks, or other types of units.
According to CBO, “Based on information provided by the Forest Service, CB0 estimates that implementing the legislation would not have a significant impact on the federal budget.”