Colorado’s Arkansas River Corridor could be the first place where a new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) planning strategy touches down. The agency’s future vision for managing our shared public lands (dubbed “Planning 2.0”) could have far-reaching benefits on Colorado’s central canyon lands.
Flowing from the top of the Rockies to the Mississippi River, the Arkansas River is one of America’s mighty river systems. Its headwaters make up an ecological wonderland and a recreational hotspot, cutting through rugged canyon country full of hair-raising land features like rock hoodoos and rough crags.
This breathtaking Colorado landscape could be protected for future generations thanks to Planning 2.0, which places an emphasis on landscape-level planning and balancing conservation with other uses. The Wilderness Society worked with our science partners to craft a proposal for an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (a type of protective BLM designation) to incorporate principles of Planning 2.0 and help move public lands conservation into the next chapter.
The Planning 2.0 approach can be thought of like a jigsaw puzzle—it looks at all the puzzle pieces and figures out how each piece interacts and supports each other. It means a holistic approach, which is a good thing for conservation and for management of our public lands.
For the Arkansas River canyon lands, this could be a great opportunity. Public lands here are highly valuable and a number of resources should be protected. The BLM should capitalize on the landscape-level approach to determine these interconnections and how our public lands are being fully protected.
An Area of Critical Environmental Concern designation, is a prime tool for this new landscape approach. While the tool itself dates back to the 1976 law that created the BLM, using it to protect large landscapes is new way of thinking. The BLM can use this designation to address unique conservation needs of an area ranging from climate change vulnerability to wildlife migration. For the lands surrounding the most popular river segment for kayakers and rafters in the country, an Area of Critical Environmental Concern designation is crucial for not leaving lands vulnerable to pollution and development.