Backcountry Conservation Areas and other Resource Management Plan updates will ensure conservation of high-quality habitats
Last week, the Bureau of Land Management’s Royal Gorge Field Office published their proposed final Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan revision and environmental impact statement for review before a final Record of Decision is signed. The final Resource Management Plan will provide management direction for 666,127 surface acres and nearly 6.5 million subsurface acres of mineral estate in Eastern Colorado for decades to come. The TRCP thanks all the BLM, Department of Natural Resources, and Colorado Parks & Wildlife staff, county officials, and TRCP members, supporters, and partners who have provided invaluable feedback, guidance, and expertise since this plan revision process began in 2015.
These BLM lands are home to elk, mule deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, and wild and native trout, and encompass 487 miles of streams and rivers and popular destination lakes and reservoirs valued by anglers. The updated BLM plan commits to managing 87,400 acres of extraordinary fish and wildlife habitat as Backcountry Conservation Areas, thereby protecting them from fragmentation and development while maintaining important access for hunting, fishing, and other forms of wildlife-dependent recreation and traditional uses of the land.
In these BCAs, the BLM will focus management activities on the conservation and restoration of key habitats, which can include wildfire mitigation work and habitat improvement projects where needed. By improving and protecting habitat, the BLM will support healthy big game herds and hunting opportunities in the region for decades to come.
“For decades the absence of a cohesive guiding framework for administering Eastern Colorado’s public lands and natural resources has contributed to management uncertainty and stakeholder confusion,” said Dan Gibbs, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “The final RMP will allow BLM to respond more effectively to evolving priorities and environmental conditions.”
This proposed RMP also includes a prohibition on renewable energy or oil and gas development within BCAs, and restrictions to oil and gas development in certain key habitats, generally consistent with those employed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Additionally, the plan reflects management actions that local government, community members, and conservation partners in the South Park area cooperatively proposed to balance energy development with habitat conservation to support a diverse local economy.
“We appreciate that BLM has addressed the extraordinary wildlife and streams in iconic South Park separately from the rest of the proposed resource management plan,” said Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. “The improvements to the draft reflect most of the priorities that CWF and a coalition of other interest groups developed during a lengthy planning process.”
In Colorado, the BLM manages around 8 million surface acres, so updates to outdated land use plans strengthen the wildlife and outdoors values that the public enjoy.
“The TRCP is hopeful that implementing this revised Eastern Colorado RMP will improve how high-value fish and wildlife habitat is conserved and managed across these landscapes,” said Liz Rose, Colorado Field Representative for the TRCP. “We will continue to track and comment on other BLM planning efforts in-progress, Travel Management Plans, and other BLM-proposed actions to ensure that public lands support healthy, stable wildlife populations and provide quality places for all Americans to hunt and fish.”
BLM’s process includes a 30-day protest period following publication, coinciding with a 60-day Governor’s consistency review. For more information about the current public involvement phase and to find BLM’s Eastern Colorado RMP documents, go to: https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/39877/510.
Photo Credit: USFS