In an effort to better manage and protect the rugged canyonlands of the Uncompahgre Plateau on Colorado's Western Slope, today, United States Senator Ken Salazar and Congressman John T. Salazar introduced legislation that would create a National Conservation Area (NCA) for the Dominguez-Escalante Area. This bill incorporates the consensus findings and recommendations that emerged from a set of public meetings and discussions that have been underway since 2006 under the leadership of the Mesa State College-Natural Resources and Land Policy Institute, the Public Lands Partnership, the Mesa, Montrose, and Delta county commissions, and the Colorado congressional delegation. Click here to see a map of the proposed NCA. To view a copy of the bill click here.
"This bill stands as an example of what can be accomplished when you bring everyone together to work towards a common goal - striking a balance between agriculture use and preserving land for our children and grandchildren," said Congressman Salazar. "Colorado's Western Slope is home to some the most beautiful land in the entire nation and this bill will help ensure it stays that way."
"This bill is the product of extensive public input we have received from local communities and stakeholders since 2006. I am proud that this bill will protect some of the most spectacular desert landscapes on Colorado's Western Slope, ensuring that recreationists, hunters and anglers can enjoy these wild lands for generations to come, and that traditional uses, such as grazing, can continue," said Senator Salazar. "Introducing this bill is the first step in the legislative process, and I look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders and local communities to further perfect the bill, if needed."
The proposed NCA would include approximately 210,677 acres of federally-owned land on the Uncompahgre Plateau, of which approximately 66,255 acres would be designated as the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area. Giving the Dominguez-Escalante area a National Conservation Area designation would place the area within the Bureau of Land Management's National Landscape Conservation System, which receives a greater share of resources and funding for recreation and resource protection than other BLM lands.
The bill allows continued grazing within the NCA and the Wilderness, protects private property rights and access to inholdings, withdraws the land from mineral leasing (subject to valid existing rights), and allows for continued invasive species control and fire prevention activities. The bill also incorporates consensus water language drafted in collaboration with the Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and the Colorado Wilderness Network that protects existing water rights and strikes an important balance between traditional water uses and wilderness interests.