The Bureau of Land Management Begins Great Outdoors Month with Two Acquisitions through the Land and Water Conservation Fund
Written by Caleb Nelson on June 6, 2022
Kicking off Great Outdoors Month, The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is finalizing two land acquisitions in Colorado and Wyoming that will grant access to “40,000” acres of previously inaccessible public land.
BLM is partnering with The Conservation Fund, a national non-profit dedicated to supporting the “voluntary protection” of public lands and waters, to finalize two acquisitions through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. These acquisitions include the 160-acre Escalante Creek Parcel within the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area in Colorado, and “35,670” acres of private land in southwest Casper, Wyoming that will “unlock” the previously inaccessible 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
This BLM Wyoming acquisition is “the largest land purchase that BLM has undertaken in Wyoming.” This will create a 118-square-mile block of land that will improve public access to the North Platte River.
Working closely with the Marton family, The Conservation Fund recently transferred the Marton family property to the BLM for permanent protection using funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The initial purchase was supported by a grant from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Congress helped provide funding over a period of several years to acquire the ranch. BLM received $21 million from the Land and Water Conservation fund in 2021 to purchase the ranch “in its entirety.”
The Marton property, located east of Alcova Reservoir, borders the North Platte River frontage and extends south into Carbon County. Acquisition of the property connects formerly inaccessible BLM and State Lands to ensure the “continued conservation of important wildlife habitat for Greater Sage-Grouse, raptors, and big game species,” BLM reports in a recent press release. Ease of access to the property furthers the Department of the Interior’s commitment to 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.”
This additional 8.8 miles of public access to the North Platte River will provide growth opportunities for recreation and tourism, aiding the economic development of Caster and Natrona County. The river is also a “blue-ribbon trout fishery” that has more pounds per mile of fish than “any other steam in Wyoming.” According to data from 2021, travelers spend close to “$285” million in Natrona County, which generated “$16.3” million in local and state taxes.
“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
Located in the canyon country of Uncompahgre Plateau in Western Colorado, the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area is part of the BLM’s National Conservation Lands system. Designated to be an “Area of Critical Environmental Concern,” the area will also serve as a Watchable Wildlife Area and a Special Recreation Management Area. The parcel transfer includes “about a half-mile of Escalante Creek,” an area home to three sensitive fish species. It is a popular destination for whitewater kayaking. The recreation areas are used for outdoor activities like fishing, camping, 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.”
Working with the former owners of Escalante Creek, The Conservation Fund found a permanent conservation solution for land that will secure public access, improve recreational enjoyment, and maintain critical ecosystems for the benefit of local and state 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.”