A veritable A-list of environmental organizations, raft outfitters and a trickle of private citizens voiced unanimous support for National Monument and Wildnerness designation for Browns Canyon at a listening session hosted by US Sen. Mark Udall at American Mountaineering Center in Golden this weekend.
While audience support was unanimous, Udall took note of the comments of three speakers who he felt raised good points. Nathan Fey, speaking on behalf of the country’s leading whitewater advocacy group, American Whitewater, encouraged Udall to also consider protection for the Arkansas River bed. Some speakers were split on the scope of the boundaries of the wilderness area with some favoring adding more to the 10,500 acres of new Wilderness outlined in Udall’s proposed legislation. Udall also took note of a comment from foresty national resources consultant and Nathrop area property owner Jim McGannon who cautioned that National Monument status could be “overkill” if resources are not also provided to properly manage the increase in traffic and use that traditionally accompanies federally designated monument status.
Virtually every outfitter with offices in the Upper Ark River Valley also spoke on behalf of preserving Browns Canyon with Monument and Wilderness designation. The list included American Adventure Expeditions, Arkansas Valley Adventures, Dvorak’s Kayak and Rafting Expeditions, Echo Canyon River Expeditions, KODI Rafting, Noah’s Ark Whitewater Rafting, Performance Tours, Wilderness Aware Rafting and Front Range based Geo Tours Whitewater Raft Trips.
The roster of organizations who spoke on behalf of Browns Canyon were representative of users who already enjoy the area including rafters, kayakers, hunters, anglers, hikers and backpackers: American Whitewater, Central Colorado Wilderness Coalition, Colorado Mountain Club, The Wilderness Society, Sportsmen for Browns Canyon, Environmental Learning for Kids, the Wichita, KS based Arkansas River Coalition, Arkansas River Outfitters Association and Colorado River Outfitters Association, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Colorado Wildlife Federation, Colorado Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.
Small businesses also spoke in support of Browns Canyon preservation. Andrea West, co-owner of Fire on the Mountain Buffalo Wings in Denver’s West Highland neighborhood said she and her partners met while rafting guiding on the Arkansas. West spoke of the important asset Browns Canyon is to Colorado’s renowned reputation for outdoor recreation. Another former raft guide, Alex Dowie, told Udall he met and proposed marriage to his fiancee while both were guides on the Arkansas.
On behalf of the Ark Valley Libation Society, Lee Hart thanked Udall both for his support of Browns Canyon as well as proposed tax relief legislation that would benefit small production craft brewers. She used AVLS as an example of the broad bases small business support for Browns Canyon even among businesses that do not have direct ties to the recreation economy in the Upper Arkansas River Valley. To audience applause and quips from Udall, Hart introduced Udall to the Society’s first collaborative effort, Brown’s Canyon India Style Brown Ale. A portion of proceeds from the sale of the limited edition ale will benefit the advocacy efforts of locally based Friends of Browns Canyon. The ale recipe and ingredients are a collaborative effort of AVLS brewers Elevation Beer Co., Amica’s Pizza and Microbrewery and Moonlight Pizza and Brew Pub. The special edition brew is available only at member producers and allied retail and restaurant members of AVLS.