Colorado’s National Conservation Lands at 15!

Aug 28, 2015 by     No Comments    Posted under: Public Lands

Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area. BLM photo.

Among the conservation legacies of the Clinton Administration and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, are the National Conservation Lands, which celebrate their 15th Anniversary this year.

The Bureau of Land Management’s National Conservation Lands, also known as the National Landscape Conservation System, contain some of the West’s most spectacular landscapes. They include 872 federally recognized areas and approximately 30 million acres of National MonumentsNational Conservation AreasWilderness AreasWilderness Study AreasWild and Scenic RiversNational Scenic and Historic Trails, and Conservation Lands of the California Desert.

National Conservation Lands were established under the Clinton administration to provide a unifying vision for the Bureau of Land Management’s various specially-designated lands including National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Historic Trails, Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas, as well as other specially designated lands.

The Bureau of Land Management’s National Landscape Conservation System, better known as the National Conservation Lands, was created in 2000 with the mission to “conserve, protect, and restore these nationally significant landscapes that have outstanding cultural, ecological, and scientific values for the benefit of current and future generations.”

This year, Clinton Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt reflected on the vision behind this public lands conservation system:

These conservation lands will remain as undeveloped open spaces, a place for unbounded recreation and individual adventure.  They will be conserved and used within a continuum of regional history and tradition.  There is immense popular support for this vision.


Adobe Badlands Wilderness Study Area. Conservation Colorado photo.

Under Executive authority the NLCS had only administrative protections that could be undone at the whim of any future president.

So In 2009 Congress enacted legislation that authorized the first new public lands designation in decades, the National Landscape Conservation System.

This year, President Obama issued a statement on the 15th anniversary of the original unifying vision for these lands, noting in part, that:

America has a long and proud tradition of environmental stewardship, and for the last 15 years, the National Conservation Lands have played an important part in carrying that tradition forward. …As we find additional opportunities to protect our wild and scenic places, the National Conservation Lands will continue to play a critical role in safeguarding the cultural, ecological, and scientific value of our environment.

In Colorado, there are over 60 units of the NLCS on BLM-administered public lands.

There is one national monument, and three national conservation areas in Colorado. Colorado also manages five wilderness areas and fifty-four wilderness study areas. There is also one national historic trail, and one national scenic trail within the conservation system in Colorado. To learn more about the National Conservation Lands in Colorado, click here.

In Delta County we have seven National Conservation Lands units on BLM public lands, including: two Wilderness Areas, two Wilderness Study Areas, two National Conservation Areas, and a National Historic Trail.

The National Conservation Lands in Delta County provide an important resource for education, from their unique habitats and high desert ecosystems, to traces of 10,000 years of human habitation from prehistoric Indians to pioneer orchardists. Recreational opportunities range from mountain biking and desert hiking, to white water rafting and family canoe trips.  Wildlife include rare and sensitive species as well as iconic animals like Desert Bighorn sheep

These are the National Conservation Lands in Delta County:bighorn

Adobe Badlands Wilderness Study Area

Camel Back (Roubideau) Wilderness Study Area

Dominguez Canyons Wilderness Area

Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area

Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area

Gunnison Gorge Wilderness Area

Old Spanish National Historic Trail

This year as the National Conservation Lands System celebrated its fifteenth year, Colorado celebrated a new addition to the system—Browns Canyon National Monument.  This continues the vision of these lands as President Obama recognized in his statement:

On the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the National Conservation Lands, let us recommit to conserving, protecting, and restoring our landscapes so our next generation can experience and advance America’s rich natural heritage.

Colorado is blessed with a tremendous wealth of America’s public lands, a source of pride that we can serve host to these national treasures.  And right here in Delta County we are lucky to have some of the best examples of National Conservation Lands that the West can offer.  So get out there and enjoy them.

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