Browns Canyon hike energizes support for wilderness protection
By Jim Lockhart
Pikes Peak Group Outings Chair
Michael Brune and Family pictured with Sierra Club and local community leaders at Browns Canyon
had the pleasure of leading Sierra Club Executive Director Michael
Brune and his family on a short hike into the Browns Canyon proposed
National Monument and Wilderness Area.
June 13, the Brune family arrived at the Ruby Mountain trailhead as
part of their 1,000-plus-mile trip to visit Colorado and the Southwest.
Michael, his wife, Mary, and their three children, Olivia, Sebastian and
Genevieve, combined a family vacation with visits to some of America’s
most treasured and threatened wild areas, including
Browns Canyon, proposed for National Monument status by Senator Mark
Udall and the recently-designated Chimney Rock National Monument.
group of 16, ranging in age from 9 months (the Brunes’ daughter
Genevieve) to adult hiked for about 45 minutes through pinyon-juniper
forest and past beautiful rock formations to a ridge top from which we
viewed the whole of the Browns Canyon proposed wilderness. Browns
Canyon, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, is located on the east
side of the Arkansas River between Buena Vista and Salida.
is a relatively low elevation, ranging between 7,500 and 8,500 feet
and, therefore, would be a particularly valuable addition to a Colorado
wilderness system which currently features mainly high mountains and
western canyon lands. Although the proposed wilderness does not include
the Arkansas River, the river would be part of the proposed National
Monument. Its scenic values, enjoyed by thousands of rafters every year,
would be protected by the wilderness designation.
the end of the hike, I asked the group how many had visited a national
park or monument. Every hand was raised. I asked whether they thought
Browns Canyon looked like a national monument. The response was again
the hike and afterwards, at the Ruby Mountain picnic area, we met and
talked with local Browns Canyon activists, including Bill Dvorak,
longtime rafting outfitter; Nick Watson from Veterans Expeditions; and
Garrett Reppenhagen from Vet Voice Foundation, to discuss how to move
forward with the Browns Canyon wilderness and national monument
proposal. Sierra Club’s Alan and Nancy Apt and their son, Zack, and
Rocky Mountain Chapter Director Joshua Ruschhaupt were also present
representing the RMC.
was planning to attend the hike as a participant, but was called in at
the last minute to co-lead after the intended leaders, John and Carol
Stansfield, were prevented from attending by the fires in the Colorado
Springs area. They instead spent the day on pre-evacuation alert,
waiting for the all-clear message. The hike was co-led by Drew Ball, a
Sierra Club senior campaign representative who planned the Brune visit,
including the Browns Canyon stopover. Special thanks to John and Carol
for planning and organizing the hike.
Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness proposal protects only a
portion of the Browns Canyon Wilderness Study Area as wilderness. The
proposal could be improved by protecting it all with the wilderness
designation. A national monument designation would provide considerable
protection, but would not necessarily rule out more intensive and
intrusive activities, such as motorized recreation.
To help the Sierra Club protect Browns Canyon, I encourage everyone to
visit the Sierra Club website and sign the Browns Canyon petition. We suggest that you personalize your comments by adding the suggestion
that wilderness designation encompass the full 20,000 acres proposed by
the Friends of Browns Canyon and other statewide groups.
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