Op Ed: Browns Canyon Deserves Protection

15740559230 830d3870d3 o 2The following article originally appeared in the Mountain Mail.

Journal entry from Browns Canyon on November 29, 2014.

“I’ve backpacked a few miles southeast of Ruby Mountain on the Turret Trail, trying to get to a spot flat enough to nail down my tiny shelter and gather firewood before I get caught in the dark.  Getting caught out in the dark in these dry washes and rugged hills doesn’t pose much of a problem though, because there’s a half moon tonight.  It’s late November, and there’s a chinook wind coming in.  It won’t even freeze tonight at 8,000 feet above sea level…one of the advantages of a warm wind blowing downslope, and the fact that I’m visiting some unique low-elevation wilderness in Colorado.  I come here from time to time to muscle my way into the backcountry, clear my head, and listen to the wind blow through the pinions.   This isn’t the first time I’ve spent time in Browns Canyon, and it certainly won’t be the last.”

As a backcountry hunter, angler, and backpacker, it’s easy for me to recognize Browns for exactly what it is…a unique 22,000-acre chunk of  rugged low-elevation wild land that’s home to a wide variety of wildlife, including mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, black bears, and a host of small game and fish.  The Gold Medal upper Arkansas River serves as its western boundary, is home to brown and rainbow trout, and provides top-notch fishing.  The Arkansas also provides some of the best whitewater rafting and kayaking available anywhere in Colorado and beyond.  While the majority of Colorado’s federally designated wilderness lies in the alpine zone, locked in ice and snow during the winter, Browns is accessible year-round, providing valuable winter range for big game.  As a hunter and conservationist, I understand what that means for the health and sustainability of mule deer, elk, and bighorn sheep.  I also appreciate the opportunity to visit this area at all times of the year.

I urge all sportsmen who value the backcountry to support the protection of Browns Canyon.  It has broad support from local business owners, local government, and many of the backpackers, hikers, hunters, anglers, and quiet-use recreationists from Colorado and across the US.  Browns is a beautifully wild, special place that deserves permanent protection.  Let’s protect this wild landscape. 

Paul Vertrees, Canon City

About Caitlin Thompson