WASHINGTON, DC – The Bureau of Land Management kicks off Great Outdoors Month with the completion of two land acquisitions in Colorado and Wyoming that will open up over 40,000 acres of previously inaccessible public lands.
In partnership with The Conservation Fund, a national non-profit organization that supports the voluntary protection of public lands and waters, the Bureau of Land Management has completed two acquisitions by the Land and Water Conservation Fund: the 160-acre Escalante Creek Parcel within the Dominguez Escalante National Conservation Area in Colorado and 35,670 acres of private land southwest of Casper, Wyoming that will unlock access to 40,000 acres of existing BLM and State of Wyoming land.
“The BLM is working hard to provide additional access to previously inaccessible public lands by working with partner organizations such as The Conservation Fund and through the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” he said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning. “We are so grateful for these partnerships that allow us to preserve and expand access to public lands for many generations to come.”
Acquisition of the Marton property
The acquisition by BLM Wyoming is BLM’s largest land purchase in Wyoming, creating a 118 square mile contiguous block of public land and improving public access to the North Platte River.
The Conservation Fund worked closely with the Marton family to acquire the property and recently transferred it to the BLM for permanent protection with funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Conservation Fund’s original purchase was also supported by a grant from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Congress provided funding to acquire the ranch over several years, and BLM received $21 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 2021 to acquire the ranch outright.
The Marton property lies east of Lake Alcova and borders a 14.8 km long frontage of the North Platte River to the north and extends south into Carbon County. Acquisition of the property will connect formerly inaccessible BLM and state lands and ensure the continued conservation of important wildlife habitats for Great Sage Grouse, birds of prey and big game species. The property’s proximity to Casper and ease of access furthers the Department of the Interior’s commitment to ensuring equal access to America’s land and waters.
“This acquisition is a big step forward in improving public access,” he said BLM High Plains District Manager Kevin Christensen. “Through our enduring partnership with The Conservation Fund, we have a unique opportunity to conserve important wildlife habitats at the landscape scale and expand river and public land access for our local community and visitors.”
The inclusion of an additional 8.8 miles of public access to the North Platte River, a blue ribbon trout fishery that boasts more fish per mile than any other river in Wyoming, provides growth opportunities for the tourism and recreation economy in Casper and Natrona County. In 2021, travelers in Natrona County spent $285.1 million and generated $16.3 million in state and local taxes.
The acquired lands will initially be managed in the same way as neighboring BLM-managed lands, using existing decisions that protect wildlife habitats and other resources while promoting recovery. The BLM will undertake planning efforts to develop site-specific management regulations that will accommodate the purposes of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and input from tribes, partner agencies and the public.
“It takes not only outstanding landscape to ensure a conservation solution like this, but also outstanding individuals and public officials,” he said Dan Schlager, Wyoming State Director at the Conservation Fund. “Thanks to the truly exceptional land stewardship and determination of the Marton family, and an unwavering commitment to problem solving by the BLM, this remarkable landscape will be preserved forever for the delight of the entire Wyoming community.”
Dominguez-Escalante National Nature Reserve
The Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area in Canyon Land of the Uncompahgre Plateau in western Colorado is part of the BLM’s National Conservation Lands system. It is designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, a Watchable Wildlife Area, and a Special Recreation Management Area. The transferred package includes about a half mile of Escalante Creek, which is home to three sensitive fish species and is a popular destination for whitewater kayaking. The creek is also a major tributary of the nearby Gunnison River. The land is used for recreational activities such as camping, fishing, and kayaking, and contains important wildlife habitats such as desert bighorn sheep and mule deer.
“This acquisition in Colorado enables BLM to permanently protect and enhance the cultural, recreational and wildlife resources in Escalante Canyon for the benefit and enjoyment of current and future generations,” he said Collin Ewing, Dominguez-Escalante National Protected Areas Manager. “We value our continued partnerships with the Conservation Fund and the local community, which allow us to improve equitable access to our public lands.”
The Conservation Fund worked with the former owners of the 160-acre Escalante Creek property to find a permanent conservation solution for their land that secures public access, enhances recreational opportunities, and preserves ecosystem benefits for local communities.
“Improving recreational access to the spectacular red rock canyons in the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area is a great addition to the public lands we all own,” he said Kelly Ingebritson of the Colorado Conservation Fund office. “We appreciate the leadership of the BLM, the Colorado congressional delegation, landowners and local supporters in protecting a strategic treasure on Escalante Creek and in the heart of the National Conservation Area.”
“We are proud that this land is protected for public access and future generations,” he said Paul Felin, former landowner and representative of the family that owned the property. “The Escalante Creek portion of the property is a wonderful recreational area that our family and friends have enjoyed visiting since the 1970’s and that the public can now experience as owned by the BLM.”
These projects support the America the Beautiful initiative, a decades-long challenge to locally led and volunteer efforts across the country to conserve 30 percent of the country’s land and waters by 2030. The initiative focuses on collaborative protection, expanding access to public lands, and making outdoor recreation accessible. The Land and Water Conservation Fund provides funds for the acquisition of land and interests in land for the benefit of present and future generations. Funding BLM receives is used to support specific conservation, recreation and other projects to improve public access to and stewardship of public lands, water and resources.
To learn more about other lands the BLM has acquired through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, please visit the BLM web map. These and other projects are part of BLM’s mission to maintain the health, diversity and productivity of public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.