WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will designate Chimney Rock as a national monument Friday — a move that will help preserve the 4,726 acres in southwestern Colorado, administration officials told The Denver Post Wednesday.
Chimney Rock comprises a chunk of the San Juan National Forest and is surrounded by the Southern Ute Indian Reservation.
The land will be managed by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service and White House officials said they will work with the tribes in the area.
Ranchers who use the area for grazing will maintain those rights as well, administration officials said.
The site is deeply spiritual to the Southern Utes. Ancestors used the rock to see "lunar standstills" — a phenomenon that only happens every 18.6 years when the moon rises exactly between the two stone pillars of Chimney Rock.
Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress has been working on this designation for two years, but it had stalled in the U.S. Senate.
Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, who represents the area, sponsored a bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives in May.
Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, sponsored companion legislation in the Senate, but it never passed.
This is the third designation Obama has made under the Antiquities Act.