MONTROSE – The Bureau of Land Management is seeking public comments on a draft Wild and Scenic River Eligibility Report conducted by the Uncompahgre Field Office.
The report is the first step in a Wild and Scenic River evaluation for the 900,000-acre field office, which is being conducted as the field office revises the Uncompahgre Resource Management Plan. The Draft Eligibility Report provides an inventory of river and stream segments on BLM-administered lands, and identifies those segments that meet the eligibility criteria necessary for federal Wild and Scenic River consideration.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed in 1968 to preserve selected rivers or sections in their free-flowing condition in order to protect “the water quality of such rivers and to fulfill other vital national conservation purposes.” To be eligible under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, a river or stream segment must possess one or more “outstandingly remarkable values,” have sufficient water quality to support those values, and be “free-flowing.” The BLM evaluated 174 river and stream segments and found 35 to be eligible.
The draft report identifies five segments of the San Miguel River (approximately 55 miles), two segments of the Dolores River (approximately 20 miles), and two segments of the Gunnison River (approximately 18 miles) as eligible. Eligibility review does not take into account potentially conflicting uses or the manageability of a river segment, which will be addressed in the upcoming suitability phase.
At this stage, the BLM is specifically looking for information regarding free-flowing condition and outstandingly remarkable values, including vegetation, wildlife, cultural, recreation, hydrologic, geologic, and scenic. Public comments on the draft report will be accepted through Feb. 26. The report is available at http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/ufo/uncompahgre_rmp.html.
Comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to the Uncompahgre Field Office, Attn: RMP Revision, 2645 S. Townsend Ave., Montrose, CO 81401.
“Once the eligibility study has been finalized, we’ll be working with stakeholders to look at each eligible segment to determine whether or not it is suitable for Wild and Scenic River consideration,” said Uncompahgre Field Manager Barb Sharrow. “Public involvement in this process is essential.”
The suitability study will be included in the Resource Management Plan revision, which will analyze a range of possible recommendations. The BLM may or may not actively recommend suitable segments for Wild and Scenic River designation, based on input from stakeholders and the public.
River segments determined to be eligible are afforded interim protective management by the BLM until a suitability study is completed. The Resource Management Plan revision and suitability analysis is scheduled to be completed in 2013.
The Cache La Poudre River on the Front Range is currently the only river in Colorado with segments included in the Wild and Scenic River system. For more information on Wild and Scenic Rivers, visit www.nps.gov/rivers/.