Forest Service officials have released the details of a long-term management plan for the Chimney Rock archaeological site, three years after President Barack Obama proclaimed the area a national monument.
Part of the national monument designation required the San Juan National Forest Service, with stakeholder input, to draft a long-term visionary management plan for the site.
“Because it had already been an archaeological area with special management emphasis, there wasn’t a ‘wholesale’ change for instance,” Pagosa District Ranger Paul Blackman said. “However, the proclamation did expand the size of it, and included acreage not previously managed. Some analysis had to be done with those areas as to how best to manage them.”
The biggest issue, Blackman said, was deciding what level of development the Forest Service and the public wanted to see there. Ultimately, the plan involves an emphasis on buildings trails, additional parking and a possible visitors center – but most invested parties wanted to see very little development beyond that.
“It’s a middle-of-the-road approach,” Blackman said.
Among the more notable decisions, grazing is no longer allowed on Peterson Ridge. Blackman said some pushback was received from ranchers, but in all, the area wasn’t heavily grazed to begin with.
The Forest Service worked with about 26 tribes in drafting the management plan, and it calls for a continuance of the traditional spiritual purposes that have been going on for years, which include ceremonies and medicinal plant gathering.
“There’s been extensive collaboration with the native tribes affiliated with the site,” Blackman said. “That was a key part of the whole process.”
No specific funding was provided by virtue of the national-monument designation, but the Forest Service did want to clear the way in terms of prioritizing should funds become available, Blackman said.
Jimbo Buickerood, public lands coordination for San Juan Citizens Alliance, said the management plan is a very good fit with the monument’s preservation.
“They found a sweet spot between having some enhancement of interpretative services, and respecting cultural resources and the landscape there,” he said. “It’s right on the mark for that.”
Also included in the plan: extension of the season; the site is closed to dispersed camping and over-snow motorized vehicles; rock climbing and other public uses are not allowed around rock spires; horses and dogs are not allowed on interpretative trails; and mountain biking is limited to designated roads.