June 01, 2012

Expanding a National Conservation Area in Colorado's High Desert

Photography | Photo: Gunnison River, Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area. Photo by Rich Durnan.

In June, Western Rivers Conservancy (WRC) successfully conveyed 400 acres along Colorado’s Gunnison River to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), permanently protecting a property that was threatened by gravel mining and real estate and expanding the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area (NCA).

One of the great tributaries to the Colorado River, and the second largest river in Colorado, the Gunnison sweeps past rocky bluffs, desert slopes and riparian thickets of cottonwood. This is one of the few places where four species of Colorado Basin warm-water fish still survive: Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, bonytail chub and razorback sucker. The property, located at the entrance to the NCA, will help protect sensitive fish and wildlife habitat as well as create a public resource for hikers, floaters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

The NCA was designated by the BLM in 2009 and includes 66,280 acres of outstanding ecological and cultural resources including ancient fossil beds, red rock canyons and desert flora and fauna. WRC began securing critical portions of land in this region in 2010 with a 214-acre inholding purchase within the BLM-managed Bangs Canyon Special Recreation Management Area, just downstream from the NCA.

Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall and Congressman Scott Tipton have helped secure an appropriation from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for these Gunnison River properties.

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