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Movement to make stretch of Arkansas River a national monument passes first hurdle

July 23, 2014 Updated: July 24, 2014 at 6:58 am
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A raft floats the Arkansas River through Browns Canyon between Buena Vista and Salida Thursday, May 14, 2013. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

A bill to designate Browns Canyon in Chaffee County as a national monument passed its first legislative hurdle Wednesday.

The measure, which would protect a 22,000-acre stretch of the Arkansas River between Buena Vista and Salida, was approved by the Senate National Parks Subcommittee. It will next be heard by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. No timetable has been set.

The canyon is a popular destination for rafting and fishing, and drives tourism and spending in the area west of Colorado Springs.

The bill was introduced in December by Sen. Mark Udall. It would allow all current uses, including rafting, fishing, hunting, hiking, livestock grazing, mountain biking and motorized vehicle use.

Many previous attempts at protecting Browns Canyon have failed, falling victim to conflicts over motorized use and whether permanent federal restrictions should be imposed.

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