By Matt Whittaker / NewsBreak Denver
(Western Slope, Colo.) This week, the federal government announced the purchase of 160 acres of Western Slope land to make it accessible for public recreation and protect cultural and wildlife resources.
The Bureau of Land Management and the environmental non-profit Conservation Fund acquired the parcel with federal money from the congressionally established Land and Water Conservation Fund, funded by royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas offshore. The bureau didn’t specify how much the land cost in its press release announcing the purchase.
Located in the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area southeast of Grand Junction, the purchase is part of a Biden administration push to conserve 30 percent of the nation’s lands and water by 2030. It was announced concurrently to a much larger land buy in Wyoming.
The parcel provides access to about half a mile of Escalante Creek, which feeds the Gunnison River, contains three sensitive fish species, and is a popular whitewater kayaking destination.
“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.
The Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area was created in 2009 by a public lands management act and is managed by the BLM. In addition to recreational activities, including camping, fishing and kayaking, the lands contain habitat for desert bighorn sheep and mule deer.
“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, Colorado and western project manager with The Conservation Fund.
The canyons and sandstone bluffs in the area contain geological and paleontological resources spanning 600 million years. The lands, covered with pinyon-juniper, are an important connection to the Ute Tribes’ ancestral past.
“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.”