Chimney Rock. Photo: USDA.gov/Flickr
On Friday, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation designating 4,726 acres of land in southwestern Colorado as Chimney Rock National Monument. Roughly 1,000 years ago, the Chaco civilization built more than 200 homes and farmed the land in this area, which is marked by two large rock spires at an elevation of roughly 7,600 feet. Once every 18.6 years, the moon rises between those two spires, Chimney Rock and Companion Rock, creating a moment known as a lunar standstill. Peregrine falcons, mule deer, and mountain lions live in the ponderosa pine, juniper, and pinon environments around the spires.
Republicans and Democrats alike tried for two years to have the designation set at the site, but their efforts stalled in the Senate. President Obama proclaimed the area a national monument under the Antiquities Act, which grants a U.S. president the right to preserve historically important landmarks, structures, and areas of scientific interest without legislation from Congress. President Obama has used the Antiquities Act to protect two other locations, Fort Ord National Monument in California and Fort Monroe National Monument in Virginia. President Teddy Roosevelt first used the Antiquities Act to declare Devils Tower a national monument in 1906. President Clinton used it the most, setting aside 19 new national monuments and expanding the boundaries of three others.