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Obama creates new national monument in Colorado

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September 19, 2012 07:58 PM EST | AP

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DENVER — President Barack Obama's administration will create a national monument at a dramatic rock formation in southwestern Colorado on a site that was home to the ancestors of modern Pueblo Indians 1,000 years ago, officials confirmed Wednesday.

The move to preserve 4,726 acres of high desert at Chimney Rock, which holds spiritual significance for some tribes, will be announced Friday. The Denver Post first reported the decision, which was confirmed by Senator Michael Bennet's office.

The monument will be the third created by the Obama administration.

The Republican congressman who represents the area, Scott Tipton, sponsored a bill urging the designation that passed the House of Representatives in May. Bennet proposed a similar bill that never made it through the Senate following partisan squabbling.

"Making Chimney Rock a national monument will be an extraordinary boost for the region by preserving and protecting the site and driving tourism, which would draw more visitors and bring more dollars into the local, regional and state economies," Bennet said in a statement.

The 1906 Antiquities Act gives the president the power to designate certain historic federal properties as national monuments, to be preserved in perpetuity.

President Clinton's designation of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah in 1996 angered many local residents and politicians who had hoped to tap the underground energy deposits there. When Obama took office, some Western conservatives were suspicious his administration would go on a national monument-creating spree.

But Obama has so far only designated two other national monuments: the-14,000 acre Fort Ord National Monument along the California Coast, and Fort Monroe, a former army base in Virginia that was a safe haven for slaves during the Civil War.

Some small business owners in southwest Colorado have said such a designation for Chimney Rock would give people more reasons to visit the region.

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