Salazar: Eagle County areas deserve protection |

Salazar: Eagle County areas deserve protection

Daily staff report
Vail, CO Colorado

WASHINGTON – Castle Peak and Bull Gulch in Eagle County are among 18 backcountry areas in nine states that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar highlighted Thursday as deserving protection by Congress as national conservation areas or wilderness areas.

Those two areas are also included in U.S. Rep. Jared Polis’ Eagle and Summit County Wilderness Preservation Act.

“Just four miles from I-70, the Castle Peak area offers an accessible wilderness experience to Coloradans and visitors from around the Country,” Salazar’s report said. “The rich foraging grounds and deep forest found here provide superb elk calving and summer range for elk and deer. As a result, the area is renowned for its spectacular hunting opportunities. Hikers and horseback riders can explore open grasslands, aspen groves, and spruce-fir forests. The Castle Peak formation adds to the area’s scenic appeal and provides a visual reference for visitors throughout the area.”

It cites the Bull Gulch Wilderness Study area as “a land of stark contrasts.”

“The area ranges from an alpine ecosystem to arid red rock canyon country,” the report said. “The Colorado River cuts through Bull Gulch’s colorful sandstone formations, enhancing the strikingly scenic landscape and providing whitewater rafting and kayaking opportunities. The area is also known for its diverse wildlife, including prairie falcons, bald eagles, grouse, elk and deer.”

The report issued by Salazar includes a preliminary list of areas managed primarily by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management where there is significant local support for Congressional protection, and that Salazar believes can be at the foundation of a public lands bill.

The report is the result of work by Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes and BLM Director Bob Abbey to identify – based on input from Congress, state and county officials, tribes, and other interested parties – a preliminary list of BLM lands that merit consideration by Congress for designation as national conservation areas or wilderness.

“The backcountry areas we identify in this report are by no means the only public lands that may deserve protection by Congress, but this preliminary list of possibilities shows that there is a compelling case for bipartisan legislative action to conserve lands for recreation, protection, and enjoyment,” Hayes said.

Since the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964, Congress has designated approximately 8.7 million acres of BLM land as wilderness, equating to just roughly 3.5 percent of the land that the BLM manages.

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