The Bureau of Land Management kicks off great outdoors month with two acquisitions through the land and water conservation fund: Acquisitions in Colorado and Wyoming significantly increase access to public lands

Known for its breathtaking scenery, the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area is a fine example of the spectacular canyon country of Colorado’s Uncompahgre Plateau. Red-rock canyons and sandstone bluffs hold geological and paleontological resources spanning 600 million years, as well as many cultural and historic sites. The Ute Tribes today consider these pinyon-juniper–covered lands an important connection to their ancestral past. The Escalante, Cottonwood, Little Dominguez and Big Dominguez Creeks cascade through sandstone canyon walls that drain the eastern Uncompahgre Plateau. Unaweep Canyon on the northern boundary of the NCA contains globally significant geological resources. Nearly 30 miles (48 km) of the Gunnison River flow through the Dominguez-Escalante NCA, supporting fish, wildlife and recreational resources. The Old Spanish National Historic Trail, a 19th Century land trade route, also passes through it. A variety of wildlife call the area home, including desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, golden eagle, turkey, elk, mountain lion, black bear, and the collared lizard. There are 115 miles (185 km) of streams and rivers in the NCA, and there is habitat suitable for 52 protected species of animals and plants. By Bob Wick; Bureau of Land Management – Dominguez-Escalante NCA, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42092807

Click the link to read the release on the Bureau of Land Management website:

The Bureau of Land Management is kicking off Great Outdoors Month by finalizing two land acquisitions in Colorado and Wyoming that will unlock over 40,000 acres of previously inaccessible public land.

In partnership with The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit that supports the voluntary protection of public lands and waters, the Bureau of Land Management finalized two acquisitions through the Land and Water Conservation Fund: the 160-acre Escalante Creek Parcel within the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area in Colorado, and 35,670 acres of private land southwest of Casper, Wyoming that will unlock access to 40,000 acres of existing BLM and State of Wyoming land.

“The BLM works hard to provide additional access to previously inaccessible public lands by working with partner organizations like The Conservation Fund and through the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning. “We are so grateful for these partnerships that allow us to conserve and expand access to public lands for many generations to come.”

Marton Property Acquisition

The BLM Wyoming acquisition is the largest land purchase that the BLM has undertaken in Wyoming, creating a 118-square-mile contiguous block of public land and improving public access to the North Platte River.

The Conservation Fund worked closely with the Marton family to acquire the property, and recently transferred it to the BLM for permanent protection using funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Conservation Fund’s initial purchase was also supported by a grant from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Congress provided funding to acquire the ranch over several years, and BLM received $21 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 2021 to purchase the ranch in its entirety.

Located east of Alcova Reservoir, the Marton property is bordered to the north by 8.8 miles of North Platte River frontage and extends south into Carbon County. Acquisition of the property will connect formerly inaccessible BLM and State lands and ensure the continued conservation of important wildlife habitat for Greater Sage-Grouse, raptors, and big game species. The property’s proximity to Casper and ease of access furthers the Department of the Interior’s commitment to ensuring equitable access to America’s lands and waters.

“This acquisition marks a big step forward for improving public access,” said BLM High Plains District Manager Kevin Christensen. “Through our lasting partnership with The Conservation Fund, we have a unique opportunity to conserve crucial wildlife habitat at a landscape scale and expand access to the river and public land for our local community and visitors.”

The inclusion of an additional 8.8 miles of public access to the North Platte River, a blue-ribbon trout fishery boasting more pounds per mile of fish than any other stream in Wyoming, provides growth opportunities for the tourism and recreation economy in Casper and Natrona County. In 2021, travelers spent $285.1 million in Natrona County, generating $16.3 million in state and local taxes.

The acquired lands will be managed initially the same as adjoining BLM-managed lands, with existing decisions in place that protect wildlife habitats and other resources while promoting recreation. The BLM will undertake a planning effort to develop management prescriptions specific to the area that take into account the purposes of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the input of Tribes, partner agencies, and the public.

“Ensuring a conservation solution like this one requires not just an outstanding landscape, but outstanding private citizens and public servants to match it,” said Dan Schlager, Wyoming state director at The Conservation Fund. “Thanks to the truly exceptional land management and determination of the Marton family, and an unwavering problem-solving commitment from the BLM, this remarkable landscape will remain permanently conserved for the enjoyment of the entire Wyoming community.”

Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area

The Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area, located in canyon country of the Uncompahgre Plateau in Western Colorado, is part of the BLM’s National Conservation Lands system. It is designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, Watchable Wildlife Area, and Special Recreation Management Area. The parcel being transferred includes about a half-mile of Escalante Creek, which is home to three sensitive fish species and provides a popular whitewater kayaking destination. The creek is also an important tributary to the nearby Gunnison River. The lands are used for recreation activities like camping, fishing, and kayaking and contain essential wildlife habitats for desert bighorn sheep and mule deer.

“This acquisition in Colorado allows the BLM to permanently protect and enhance the cultural, recreational, and wildlife resources in Escalante Canyon for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations,” said Collin Ewing, Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area Manager. “We appreciate our continued partnerships with The Conservation Fund and the local community that allows us to improve equitable access on our public land.”

The Conservation Fund worked with the former owners of the 160-acre Escalante Creek property to find a permanent conservation solution for their land that will secure public access, improve recreational opportunities, and preserve ecosystem benefits for the local communities.

“Increasing recreational access to the spectacular red-rock canyons in the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area is a great addition to the public lands that belong to all of us,” said Kelly Ingebritson of The Conservation Fund’s Colorado office. “We appreciate the leadership of the BLM, Colorado’s Congressional delegation, the landowners, and local supporters to protect a strategic treasure on Escalante Creek and in the heart of the National Conservation Area.”

“We are proud to see this land protected for public access and future generations,” said Paul Felin, former landowner, and representative for the family who owned the parcel. “The property’s portion of Escalante Creek is a wonderful recreation area that our family and friends enjoyed visiting since the 1970s, which the public will now be able to experience going forward under the BLM’s ownership.”

Click the link to read the “BLM acquires 160-acre parcel on Escalante Creek” on The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel website (Dennis Webb). Here’s an excerpt:

The Bureau of Land Management has acquired a 160-acre private parcel of land along Escalante Creek southwest of Delta, in the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area, using Land and Water Conservation Fund money. The land now in public hands includes about a half-mile of the creek. The acquisition occurred with the help of the nonprofit Conservation Fund, which worked with the property’s former owners to find a permanent conservation solution for the land to secure public access, improve recreational opportunities and preserve ecosystem benefits, the BLM said in a news release.

A Conservation Fund fact sheet on the acquisition indicates it’s being made possible with the help of $480,000 in federal fiscal year 2022 Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars. The fund derives its revenues from federal offshore oil and gas leasing. It receives $900 million a year in permanent funding because of a bill passed by Congress in 2020. The Conservation Fund fact sheet says the acquisition is intended to permanently protect what had been a private inholding within the National Conservation Area.

It is accessible by a county road and is southwest and upstream of the Escalante Potholes Recreation Site. The acquisition will provide new access for camping, fishing and other recreation in a creek corridor also popular for whitewater boating during spring runoff season. The property also provides important wildlife habitat for species such as mule deer and desert bighorn sheep, and protecting it helps protect three sensitive fish species in the creek.

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