Visitation & Land Use
The greatest number of recreational visits occur on BLM lands adjacent to communities. The cities and towns of Montrose, Delta, Norwood, Paonia, Crawford, Hotchkiss, Cedaredge, Orchard City, Olathe, Ridgway, Telluride, Naturita, and Nucla are all near public lands commonly used as “backyard” recreation areas by local residents. This use continues to grow exponentially, along with growth in the communities themselves. The communities benefit directly from the visitation and tourism associated with public lands.
In fact, recreation has emerged as the predominant activity on local BLM lands and national forests. Most data on public land use and activities is a statistical approximation, relying heavily on field observations and the professional judgment of recreation staff. It is estimated that the UFO receives around 349,000 visits per year.
Recreation Management Areas
BLM land use plans designate Special Recreation Management Areas (SRMAs), where recreation is the principle management focus, and funding and personnel are directed toward fulfilling the commitment to provide specific “structured” recreation opportunities. The UFO currently manages two SRMAs:
San Miguel River
Deep Creek to Piñon
UFO boundary to Bedrock
Any area not delineated as an SRMA is called an extensive recreation management area (ERMA). Recreation in these areas is unstructured and does not require intensive management or significant investments in trails or facilities. This type of custodial or “dispersed” recreation management offers little in the way of visitor services or developed recreational facilities.
Comparison of ERMAs and SRMAs:
No identifiable market demand for structured recreation
Tied to identified market demand for structured recreation (i.e., activities, experiences, benefits, and the maintenance of recreation setting character)
Reactive & Custodial
Directed at taking care of dispersed recreation-tourism activities
Directed at producing specific recreation opportunities/outcomes
Developed Recreation Facilities
In certain locations, the BLM has contructed recreation sites and facilities in order to enhance recreation opportunities, protect resources, manage activities, and reduce user conflicts. These infrastructure developments range from campgrounds to simple bulletin boards at trailheads.
Developed recreation sites occur mainly along the San Miguel River SRMA and in the Dolores River SRMA. There are several campsites along the San Miguel River corridor which have boat ramps, changing rooms, cabanas and picnic tables, grills, kiosks, parking areas, and toilets. The Dolores River SRMA has picnic tables, cabanas, parking area, boat ramp and a visitor information kiosk.
Other dispersed staging areas and trailheads in the UFO consist of kiosks, picnic tables, and parking areas, as well as one developed site along the Uncompahgre River with cabanas and picnic tables, informational signs, benches, toilet, and non-motorized paved trail.
Special Recreation Permits
The BLM requires special recreation permits (SRPs) for commercial uses, competitive events, organized groups, and recreation use within certain special areas in the UFO, including rivers, backcountry, and camping areas. Most SRPs issued by the UFO are for river activities and upland hunt outfitting services.
The UFO currently has approximately fifty commercial permits issued, which include guided fishing, white water rafting, vehicle shuttles, big and small game hunting, mountain lion hunting, horseback trail rides, jeep and motorcycle tours, camping, archery tournaments and mountain bike rides. Fifteen percent of SRP fees are expended on program administration, with the remainder going toward visitor services, monitoring, and maintenance.
Commercial Outfitters should visit the Commercial/Special Recreation Permits page prior to conducting activities in the UFO. In addition, organized groups (including school groups) may have to obtain a river outfitter license from the state of Colorado. Information about state requirements is available at: parks.state.co.us/Boating/RiverOutfitterLicensing/ or by contacting the State of Colorado directly.