The need to keep wild spaces wild is more apparent than ever. A call for another monument in Colorado has been made, and this time it is located in southwest Colorado. The Dolores River Canyon Country is filled with red rock canyons, ancient Ponderosa parks, and desert wildlands. There’s no lie on why it’s called one of Colorado’s best-unprotected stretches of public lands. From its upper reaches in the forested peaks of the San Juan Mountains through old-growth ponderosa parks to slick rock canyons, the Dolores River cuts through extraordinarily diverse public lands in Dolores, Montezuma, San Miguel, Montrose, and Mesa counties. We must protect this unique landscape in Colorado for future generations to come.

First of, the canyon land has incredible cultural significance. This landscape was home to ancestral pubeloans and the Ute people who still live in this area today and have ongoing cultural and spiritual connections to this land. Permanent protections should recognize, honor and uphold the longstanding ties Tribal communities — including the Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and Southern Ute Indian Tribe — have to these lands.

The Dolores River also holds some of the greatest biodiversity found in the state. We must protect this land if we want to protect the habitat for both rare species and plants along with iconic big game. Protecting these lands at a watershed scale would protect both annual and intermittent streams, which ultimately contributes to the quality and resilience of the whole Dolores river as part of the greater Colorado River Basin.

We all know the outdoor recreation industry is the biggest revenue driver in the state. And the communities that depend on the outdoor recreation industry need thriving lands and water in order for the industry to stay afloat. This river is the lifeline of many western Colorado communities. By protecting the Dolores River Canyon Country we can help ensure that these lands are better managed for growing visitation by providing amenities, improving access, protecting the most sensitive areas, and safeguarding irreparable cultural resources.

Today, the future of the Dolores River Canyons are threatened by the impacts of climate change and interest in mining in the area. We must take action now to ensure that these lands are protected for generations to come. I encourage people to talk to their local and state environmental agencies on how they can get involved in protecting this special spot right here in our state.

Shelby Sedgwick, Lakewood

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