by Jay Thompson
Since the mid 1980’s, the Bureau of Land Management has promoted the protection and restoration of riparian and wetland areas under its management. This emphasis on protection and restoration has grown as BLM has realized that many of its land use practices were impacting fragile riparian systems and the wildlife that depends on these systems. However, only fairly recently has BLM actively sought out areas with riparian and fisheries values through its land acquisition program. Transferring riparian areas and fisheries habitat into public ownership provides long term protection and recreational opportunities for all Americans. Riparian resources have become a key consideration in land exchanges; and can serve as a driving force behind the acquisition of certain lands.
|Pictured are (L to R): Bill Miller, Jan Fackrell, Stu Parker, and Jay Thompson|
Acquiring riparian resources through exchange, donation, or purchase has occurred to some degree throughout Colorado on BLM lands. The realty staff members in BLM’s Canon City District Office (now divided into the Royal Gorge, LaJara, and Saguache Field Offices) have been especially active in their acquisition of riparian areas. Since 1990, the realty staff in Canon City has completed 33 exchanges / donations / acquisitions which involved riparian and/or wetland habitat. These acquisitions have added a total of 47 miles of riparian habitat and 106 acres of wetland habitat to the public lands in the Royal Gorge area and San Luis Valley. Examples of land exchanges include Cucharas Canyon, Currant Creek, McIntire Spring, and 31-Mile Creek, each of which resulted in the acquisition of significant riparian habitat. The use of Land and Water Conservation Funds for the Cache Creek acquisition in 1999 added over 4 miles of riparian and 8 acres of wetland habitat to the public lands.
For their efforts in aggressively seeking out and acquiring lands with riparian habitat, the Colorado Riparian Association presented the 2001 Award for Excellence in Riparian Management to the realty staff in the BLM Front Range Center Office. Recipients were Stu Parker, Bill Miller, Dave Hallock, Jan Fackrell, Lindell Greer, and Debbie Bellew.