Public forums are currently being held to discuss how the land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, if protected as an NCA area by the U.S. Congress, should be managed to satisfy all the different users. Hikers, mountain bikers, rafters, equestrians, ranchers, and ATV riders all currently use portions of the rugged desert terrain in and around the Dominguez/Escalante area and their input is needed to create a possible compromise on how the land could be managed under the proposed special designation.
An NCA is a designation given by Congress to lands managed by the BLM. There are currently 13 areas in the U.S. with the special designation. Each is managed in accordance with the special provisions provided by the legislation that designated the area. Specifically, Congress designates an NCA to permanently protect and conserve an identified resource of national interest. Those specific resources are still being identified in the Dominguez/Escalante area.
“I think in the process we are in now there are three counties involved in the discussions,” said Barbara Sharrow, field manager at the BLM Uncompahgre Field Office. “The Mesa, Delta and Montrose county commissioners have asked that there be some focus groups created to look at the geological area so they can get a better idea of what is going on.
“A diversity of people in all [surrounding] counties are interested in what becomes of the designation. The City of Delta has a bit at stake here because the land is a gateway. I’m sure the same goes for Whitewater as well,” she added. “Ranchers have been extremely interested both within the proposed NCA and the areas surrounding it.”
For those who used the land for ATV travel, the possible designation would not preclude their access to the land that was previously designated for ATV use, but current BLM plans for the designation would require ATVs to remain in certain areas.
“We had quiet a few ATV people attend the last meeting,” Sharrow said. “The environmentalists have been extremely interested and have pushed this designation more than any other group. The BLM has proposed that several areas be designated wilderness within the NCA. The environmentalists have come up with a plan that designates more areas as wilderness.”
For Brad Bradway, executive director of Colorado Western Congress, a balance of uses for the land needs to be created and he cites McInnis Canyons, a designated NCA 10 miles west of Grand Junction, as a good example of that balance.
“McInnis Canyons has proven to be an enormous success,” Bradway said in an interview Monday. “There are off-road trails, horse trails and trails just for hiking. They have achieved a great balance. What they have developed there is something that everybody can enjoy and [McInnis Canyons] is one we can point to as a good NCA model.”
There are three more public forums planned for community members to discuss the various implications in creating the proposed Dominguez/Escalante NCA. Each meeting will cover a specific parcel of land within the proposed NCA.
The next meeting will be held on July 12 from 6-8 p.m. at the Mesa County Road and Bridge facility, 4250 Hwy. 50 in Whitewater. This meeting will be specific to the Dominguez Canyon wilderness study area. On July 26, the meeting will focus on Cactus Park and Dominguez Canyon areas and will also be held from 6-8 p.m. at the Mesa County Road and Bridge facility. The final meeting, which will focus on the Gunnison River, will be held Aug. 2 at the Presbyterian Church at 135 E. Fourth St. in Delta.
The Public Lands Partnership and the Mesa State Natural Resources and Land Policy Institute are sponsoring the public forums. For more information on other NCAs, visit www.blm.gov.