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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 21, 1999


Today I have signed into law S. 323, the "Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area Act of 1999."

This Act represents more than a decade of hard work by the people of the Western Slope of Colorado to bring to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison the recognition it deserves. Bipartisan support from the Colorado delegation and both Houses of Congress led this effort to establish the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park -- our 55th National Park -- and the adjacent Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area. I would like to commend Representatives Mark Udall, Scott McInnis, and Diana DeGette for their leadership on this legislation in the House of Representatives, and I would particularly like to commend and congratulate Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who has worked on this effort for over a decade.

In the 1930s, President Herbert Hoover established and President Franklin D. Roosevelt expanded the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument under the authority provided by the Antiquities Act. S. 323 redesignates the Monument as a National Park and expands its size. These actions add geographical and recreational diversity and protect the rural scenic backdrop of this spectacular gorge. The expansion will also enhance existing park resources and provide greater opportunities for visitor use and enjoyment.

Like other National Parks, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison belongs to all Americans, an heirloom to be passed on from generation to generation. As such, it deserves the highest level of protection to ensure that the outstanding characteristics and qualities that make it worthy for National Park status will never be degraded.

In the words of geologist Wallace Hansen, "[n]o other canyon in North America combines the depth, narrowness, sheerness, and somber countenance of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison." Through this Act, we recognize for all future generations the unique combination of geologic and biologic features that make the canyon such an awe-inspiring place.

The Act represents a continuing commitment to protect our Nation's wilderness resources -- expanding the existing Black Canyon of the Gunnison Wilderness by over 4,400 acres and establishing the 17,700-acre Gunnison Gorge Wilderness that will be managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The Act also creates the 57,725-acre Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, which includes the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness. This recognition is deserved for an area that offers a variety of natural and geologic features and unsurpassed recreational opportunities. The Bureau of Land Management will be responsible for managing these lands, and as directed by the Act, will develop a management plan to ensure the long-range protection of the conservation area.

Finally, S. 323 calls for a land study for Curecanti National Recreation Area. This study will seek solutions to protect Curecanti's valuable scenic, natural, and cultural resource and determine the best management strategies for this popular recreation area.

This Act will protect unique natural resources that will continue to be enjoyed by all Americans for many years. We can be proud of the legacy of park, public land, and wilderness protection that we are leaving for the generations to come.

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