President Obama Establishes Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado
Archaeology Southwest joins the National Trust for Historic Preservation in applauding the president’s designation
Tucson, Ariz. (September 21, 2012) — Today, President Obama exercised his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate a new national monument at Chimney Rock Archaeological Area in southwestern Colorado. The president’s decision provides this irreplaceable site with permanent protection and a designation equal to its historical and cultural importance. Located in San Juan National Forest, the 4,726-acre Chimney Rock Archaeological Area holds great spiritual significance for more than twenty Pueblos and other southwestern tribes.
President Obama’s decision—only the third time he has exercised his authority—comes in response to a grassroots campaign conceived and led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which engaged a diverse coalition of people and organizations, including a bipartisan group of local and statewide elected officials, Puebloan and tribal leaders, and private citizens. In May, the National Trust named Chimney Rock a National Treasure®, one of the irreplaceable places that epitomize the American story but face distinct threats. The Trust, local preservationists, and partners are working together to save a growing portfolio of National Treasures® around the United States. Tucson-based nonprofit Archaeology Southwest is proud to be a Local Partner of the National Trust.
The history and cultural significance of Chimney Rock predate the European exploration and settlement of North America. Between A.D. 925 and 1125, Chacoans built a residential and ceremonial village and inhabited the Chimney Rock mesa. The site is the farthest known Chacoan community to the northeast, and it is at the highest elevation of all known Chacoan sites. Among the ceremonial and residential structures on the mesa is the Great House Pueblo, which probably served as an observatory for the rare Northern Lunar Standstill. During the standstill, the moon aligns between Chimney Rock’s double spires.
“Chimney Rock helps us understand the story of the Chacoans, ancestors of modern Pueblo Indians, most of whom do not have a written history. Their history is written on the landscape, in the structures and in the traditional cultural practices at places like Chimney Rock. Their story is an inextricable part of our collective American story,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “The action taken by President Obama will ensure that this unique and important sacred landscape is given the level of protection and recognition it deserves. In a very tangible way, preserving Chimney Rock helps to weave our multicultural nation together.”
“I’m thrilled to see Chimney Rock achieve the full status and protection it deserves. On behalf of my colleagues at Archaeology Southwest, and as an American citizen, I thank President Obama and the Colorado congressional delegation for seeing this through,” said Paul Reed, Archaeology Southwest’s Preservation Archaeologist and Chaco Scholar at Salmon Ruins, a Chaco-era site in northwestern New Mexico ninety miles southwest of Chimney Rock.
Going forward, the National Trust has made a commitment to continue its work with both public and private partners, such as Archaeology Southwest, to ensure that Chimney Rock and other National Treasures® are preserved through the engagement of a wide range of people and partners in strategic campaigns to protect these critically threatened places. America’s federal public lands contain fascinating precontact sites, unique historic buildings, and remarkable sacred landscapes amid stunning scenic beauty. These nonrenewable cultural resources define our shared American heritage. They must be preserved for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations, because they are the link between our past and future.
BACKGROUND ON CHIMNEY ROCK
The Chimney Rock National Monument will permanently preserve and protect the Forest Service’s 4,726-acre Chimney Rock Archaeological Area. Chimney Rock currently attracts approximately 12,000 visitors per year and is operated through a special use permit by the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association. H.R. 2621, the Chimney Rock National Monument Establishment Act, sponsored by Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) passed the House of Representatives in May 2012, and a Senate companion bill, S. 508, sponsored by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Mark Udall (D-CO) had a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in May 2011.
National Monument designations historically have brought increased federal funding and resources to sites and surrounding areas, thereby providing for higher quality visitor facilities, more interpretation, better public education and improved site stabilization. An economic study released by the National Trust in July confirmed that the economic value of Chimney Rock would likely double within five years of the designation.
About the National Trust for Historic Preservation
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. www.PreservationNation.org
About Archaeology Southwest
Tucson-based Archaeology Southwest is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that explores and protects the places of our past across the American Southwest and Mexican Northwest. Through our holistic, conservation-based approach to Preservation Archaeology, we create meaningful connections to the past and respectfully protect its increasingly endangered resources. Archaeology Southwest is proud to be a Local Partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. www.archaeologysouthwest.org.