The Federal Land Management and Policy Act of 1976 directed the BLM to inventory its lands for wilderness characteristics and report its findings to the President by October 21, 1991. As a result of that mandate, the BLM identified wilderness study areas (WSA) that met certain wilderness characteristics. These WSAs are managed to preserve their wilderness values until Congress makes a decision to either designate the areas as wilderness or to release the areas for non-wilderness management.
Cahone Canyon (8,960 acres) - The Cahone Canyon WSA is located approximately 4 miles west of Cahone and just north of the Cross Canyon WSA. Elevations range from 5,900 feet to 6,600 feet. Three canyon systems with intermittent streams are the dominant topographic feature of this WSA. Vegetation is primarily pinon-juniper woodland with sagebrush parks and riparian zones along the canyon bottoms. Recreation opportunities are the same as for Cross and Squaw/Papoose Canyon WSAs. Twenty-six percent (26%) of the WSA is covered by oil and gas leases that pre-date WSA status and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. (0 acres recommended for wilderness; 8.960 recommended for non-wilderness).
Cross Canyon (12,588 acres) - The Cross Canyon WSA is located approximately 14 miles southwest of Cahone County on the Dolores/Montezuma County line; a 1,008 acre portion of the WSA extends into Utah. Elevations range from 5,140 feet to 6,500 feet. Cross, Ruin and Cow Canyons, with their perennial streams, are the major topographic features of the WSA. Pinon-juniper woodland is the predominant vegetation on the slopes and canyon rims, while sagebrush parks and riparian vegetation can be found along the canyon bottoms. Seventy-one percent (71%) of the WSA is covered by oil and gas leases that pre-date WSA status and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. Recreation opportunities include hiking, backpacking, hunting, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, and photography. (0 acres recommended for wilderness; 12,588 recommended for non-wilderness).
Dolores River Canyon (28,668 acres) - The Dolores River Canyon WSA is located approximately 17 miles west of Naturita and 28 miles north of Dove Creek. Elevations range from 5,000 feet to 5,300 feet. The dominant topographic feature of the WSA is the 30 mile long, deeply cut, meandering canyon of the Dolores River. The canyon rim and adjacent mesas support pinon-juniper woodlands with mixed desert shrubs on the slopes. The canyon bottoms support thick desert riparian vegetation, and scattered enclaves of cottonwood, ponderosa pine, aspen, and spruce/fir occur with the WSA. Desert bighorn sheep and river otter have been re-introduced to the WSA. Opportunities for primitive and unconfined recreation are excellent and include backpacking, hiking, photography, rock climbing and whitewater rafting. (29,415 acres recommended for wilderness, including lands adjacent to the existing WSA; 200 acres recommended for non-wilderness).
McKenna Peak (19,398 acres) - The McKenna Peak WSA is located in San Miguel and Dolores Counties approximately 45 miles northeast of Dove Creek. Elevations range from 6,300 feet to 8,600 feet. Although the major topographic feature of the WSA is McKenna Peak, which rises 1,000 vertical feet from the Disappointment Valley. The WSA contains a wide variety of topographic features including Mancos shale badlands, Mesa Verde sandstone cliffs, canyons, mesas, and rolling hills. This wide variety of topography provides for a diverse vegetation complex within the WSA; barren areas, salt desert shrubs, pinon-juniper woodlands, and Douglas fir, oakbrush, and mountain mahogany can all be found within the WSA. The diversity of topography and vegetation provide for outstanding recreation opportunities including hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, hunting, wildlife viewing, nature and scenic photography, and rockclimbing. The western third of the WSA is located within the Spring Creek Wildhorse Herd Management Area. (0 acres recommended for wilderness; 19,398 acres recommended for non-wilderness).
Menefee Mountain (7,089 acres) - The Menefee Mountain WSA is located approximately 2 miles south of Mancos and 3 miles east of Mesa Verde National Park. Elevations range from 6,500 feet 8,600 feet on Menefee Peak, with steep canyons radiating out from the 6-mile long ridge of Menefee Mountain. Pinon-juniper woodland is the dominant vegetation type at the lower elevations, with oakbrush and pockets of ponderosa pine and spruce/fir at the higher elevations. The WSA provides outstanding recreation opportunities for the hiker, backpacker and rock climber. ( 0 acres recommended for wilderness; 7,089 acres recommended for non-wilderness).
Squaw/Papoose Canyon (11,287 acres) - The Squaw/Papoose Canyon WSA is located just north of the Cross Canyon WSA approximately 12 miles south of Dove Creek; 6,676 acres of the WSA are located in Utah. Elevations range from 5,300 feet to 6,600 feet. The major topographic features of the WSA are Squaw and Papoose Canyons; Squaw Canyon has a perennial stream. Vegetation and recreation opportunities are the same as those found in the Cross Canyon WSA. Fourteen percent (14%) of the Squaw/Papoose Canyon WSA is covered by oil and gas leases that pre-date WSA status and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. (0 acres recommended for wilderness; 11,287 acres recommended for non-wilderness).
Weber Mountain (6,303 acres) - The Weber Mountain WSA is located just east of Mesa Verde National Park and is separated from Menefee Mountain, WSA by Weber Canyon. Elevations range from 6,600 feet to 8,200 feet. with short, steep canyons radiating out from the 5 mile long ridge of Weber Mountain. Like its "twin WSA," Menefee Mountain, the Weber Mountain WSA is characterized by pinon-juniper woodland at the lower elevations, with oakbrush and pockets of ponderosa pine and spruce/fir at the higher elevations. The WSA provides outstanding recreation opportunities for the hiker, backpacker and rock climber. (0 acres recommended for wilderness; 6,603 recommended for non-wilderness).
Weminuche Contiguous (1,930 acres) - The Weminuche Contiguous WSA is incredibly scenic, with breathtaking high peaks--several over 13,000 feet--alpine and subalpine meadows and ridges, and alpine basins. The alpine tundra allows unconfined movement for cross-country travel. This, in combination with existing hiking trails and the high scenic quality of the area, provides wonderful opportunities for unconfined recreation. The topographic relief offers outstanding solitude. Within the area are numerous running streams with cascading waterfalls. These form drainage patterns that radiate from Whitehead Peak and Sugarloaf.
West Needles Contiguous (918 acres) - The West Needles Contiguous WSA lies mostly within the steep and forested Animas River Canyon, and encompasses portions of the Animas River. Meadows of gently-rolling to nearly-flat topography are found in the western portion of the unit near Molas Lake, with a steep drop down into the Animas Gorge in the eastern portion.
Whitehead Gulch (1,875 acres) - The Whitehead Gulch WSA lies mostly within the steep forested Animas River Canyon in very close proximity to the Animas River. The mountainous landscape, with high peaks, basins, alpine streams and lakes, and narrow-side canyons, offers perfect opportunities for unconfined recreation and solitude.
Instant Study Areas
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act directed BLM to identify and study for wilderness characteristics, those areas that were formally identified as natural or primitive areas prior to November 1, 1975.
Rare Lizard and Snake Natural Area (443 acres) - The Rare Lizard and Snake Instant Study Area is located on the Colorado/Utah state line 27 miles northwest of Cortez. The natural area was established in cooperation with the Fort Lewis College Biology Department in Durango to protect the Desert Spiny Lizard and numerous other reptiles in the area. The natural area is withdrawn from mineral entry. (0 acres recommended for wilderness; 443 acres recommended for non-wilderness).