The feds are definitely reviewing Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. (Bureau of Land Management)
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. (Bureau of Land Management)
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. (Bureau of Land Management)

Last week, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said he was told this was unlikely, but it seems to be happening.

The Department of the Interior released a list of 22 national monuments that will be formally reviewed over the next two months, and Canyons of the Ancients in southwest Colorado is on the list.

In one sense, this isn’t surprising. Canyons of the Ancients meets the criteria laid out in an executive order signed by President Donald Trump last month: It’s more than 100,000 acres in size, and it was designated between 1996 and 2016.

This list makes it official.

However, the main targets of the order are thought to be Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, both in Utah, where lawmakers and portions of the public are more hostile to federal ownership of public lands.

Hickenlooper had said in a statement last week that he did not believe Canyons of the Ancients faced any threat.

“Governors Matt Mead, Brian Sandoval and I met with Secretary (of the Interior Ryan) Zinke yesterday (April 26) in Washington, D.C.,” he said in the statement, which came after the executive order was signed but before the list was published.

“As a result of our long conversation, I have been reassured that it is unlikely any of Colorado’s monuments will be reviewed. Our meeting as a whole was very positive, and the Secretary committed to working with governors as equal partners.”

(Mead is the governor of Wyoming and Sandoval is the governor of Nevada. They’re both Republicans.)

Canyons of the Ancients, believed to be the densest concentration of Native American cultural sites in the country, was designated by President Bill Clinton in 2000. Oil and gas drilling and cattle grazing continue within the monument boundaries, but with more restrictions and mitigation requirements than before. The land is owned and managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

We looked at the possible implications of removing the national monument status last week.

Two smaller national monuments in Colorado that were designated by President Barack Obama — Browns Canyon and Chimney Rock — will not be reviewed, according to the document.

A public comment period on the national monuments will open May 12. Here are the instructions from the Department of the Interior:

Comments may be submitted online after May 12 at http://www.regulations.gov by entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar and clicking “Search,” or by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240.

DATES: The Department will shortly publish a notice in the Federal Register officially opening the public comment period. Written comments relating to the Bears Ears National Monument must be submitted within 15 days of publication of that notice. Written comments relating to all other designations subject to Executive Order 13792 must be submitted within 60 days of that date.

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, emeltzer@denverite.com or @meltzere.