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Course set for BLM management of the Dominguez-Escalante NCA

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The Bureau of Land Management finalized the plan for the 210,000-acre Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area, including the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness, by signing a Record of Decision for the area this week. The Dominguez-Escalante NCA includes portions of Mesa, Delta and Montrose counties.

Known for its breathtaking and uniquely Colorado scenery, the Dominguez-Escalante NCA holds geological and paleontological resources tracing back 600 million years. There are also many cultural and historic sites located within the NCA. Today, the Ute Tribes consider these pinyon juniper-covered lands an important connection to their ancestral past. Dominguez-Escalante provides one of Colorado's most recognizable landscapes, with red rock canyons, the Gunnison River, and the picturesque Dominguez and Escalante canyons.

"Thanks to the hard work of many local community members and elected officials, this plan strikes the right balance in protecting sensitive resources, providing outstanding recreation opportunities and continuing historical uses in the NCA," said Collin Ewing, NCA manager. "The BLM is fortunate to manage such an incredible landscape that enjoys so much support from the local community."

Visitors will continue to enjoy high quality recreational experiences such as dispersed camping, equestrian, climbing, boating, hiking, mountain biking, off-highway vehicle use and access to wilderness. The plan calls for enhancements to recreation, including motorized trail improvements in Cactus Park to improve off-road recreation through trail improvements and rerouting to make motorized routes sustainable. Traditional activities like livestock grazing and hunting will continue within Dominguez-Escalante.

"Under this plan, the BLM estimates that recreation within the NCA will provide $3.4 million in annual labor income to the local economy and a net benefit of almost $6 million to recreation users," Ewing said.

The plan designates two new areas for the protection of rare plants and paleontological resources; with these two areas, the NCA now has a total of four Areas of Critical Environmental Concern covering 9,000 acres.

The plan builds on a history of broad local support for Dominguez-Escalante, which was designated by the U.S. Congress in 2009. Representatives from local communities contributed time and resources toward developing the Proposed Resource Management Plan. In addition to public comment and participation in meetings during both the scoping and draft stages of the plan, the Dominguez-Escalante Advisory Council met with the BLM and the public 38 times to delve into how to best manage this area for its special resources.

The Dominguez-Escalante NCA was designated by the 2009 Omnibus Public Lands Management Act and is part of the BLM's National Conservation Lands. Within the boundary of the NCA, the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness provides outstanding hiking and exploring opportunities and includes scenic canyons and mesas carved in sandstone, two cascading streams, waterfalls, spectacular geologic features, ecological diversity, and archaeological and paleontological sites. The wilderness is home to desert bighorn sheep as well as rock art and historic remnants of the area's ranching roots.

The plan is available at http://1.usa.gov/1qKkMVi.

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