WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that their agencies would acquire seven parcels of high value conservation land, totaling 5,026 acres in Colorado, Montana and Nevada for $11.7 million. The largest is a 4,573-acre property within the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado.
The acquisitions are authorized by the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act of 2000, which established a special land conservation fund to purchase private “inholdings” in western states from willing sellers whose acreage is surrounded by or next to lands managed by Interior's Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service, and the Department of Agriculture's U.S. Forest Service.
“These land purchases are a very worthwhile and much needed investment,” said Secretary Salazar. “The properties being brought into public ownership are remarkable for their extraordinary natural, scenic, recreational, cultural, and historical value. Their acquisition will benefit the American people now and in the future.”
“Conservation of forests and wildland areas of national significance will provide important environmental and recreation benefits for generations of Americans,” said Vilsack. “Today's announcement is an important step toward this shared goal and an example of how the FLTFA program succeeds by enabling close cooperation between USDA and the Department of Interior.”
Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey, noting that the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act is set to expire next year, said, “By using revenues from Federal land sales to acquire private inholdings from willing sellers, this law is a great tool for conserving America's signature landscapes for future generations. The Obama Administration has recommended that Congress extend the law so that more Americans may benefit from these types of fiscally responsible, targeted land acquisitions.”
The purchases are funded from already completed Federal land sales. Under the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act, the Bureau of Land Management is authorized to sell fragmented or isolated parcels of public land that are difficult to manage, as well as lands that may have residential or commercial value, and then use the proceeds to support land-conservation purposes.
In addition to the property for the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado, the Bureau of Land Management would acquire three other parcels, including a 37-acre property within the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail corridor in Montana and two parcels totaling 7 acres within the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Nevada.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would acquire 280 acres within the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Montana. The U.S. Forest Service would purchase two Nevada properties in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. The property on the Huboldt-Toiyabe National Forest totals 123 acres is just east of the Tahoe Basin with creek frontage and a portion of the federally designated Pony Express National Historic Trail. The property within Spring Mountains National Recreation Area is a
5- acre parcel adjacent to the Mount Stirling Wilderness Study Area. The property contains Horseshutem Spring, a unique water feature in the area that supports many plant and wildlife species.
The Canyons of the Ancients property accounts for about 25 percent of the private lands inside the Monument and contains 25 documented sites of cultural importance, including Jackson's Castle and the Skywatcher Site, a 1,000-year old Ancestral Puebloan solstice marker. The property is believed to contain more than 700 other as yet undocumented sites of cultural importance.
Since 2007, the Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Agriculture have approved more than $66.8 million under the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act for land acquisition by BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service. This funding enabled the acquisition to date of 28 parcels (16,700 acres).