Welcome to Wilderness Wednesday, our weekly posting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.
This week we’re highlighting the Cowboy Spring Wilderness Study Area (WSA). There is no public access to this WSA so we won’t be able to provide directions for a visit. However, this WSA provides an opportunity to talk about other important values associated with wilderness. The Cowboy Spring WSA includes an area of exceptionally high biological diversity. The WSA is located in a convergent area of Chihuahuan Desert, Rocky Mountain, and Sierra Madre ecoregions. Species from these three ecosystems all call this area home, and 130 species of birds, 60 species of mammals, and 40 species of reptiles have been documented here. Many of the animals found here are rare, some of which have been identified for special protection. Canyon bottoms support riparian wildlife species including frogs and turtles, despite the lack of perennial surface water. The hills and canyons support dense grass stands, sacahuista (a large clumpy plant of countless fibrous, narrow, five foot-long leaves), and Emory oak. This WSA contains a unique assemblage of flora, fauna, and ecosystems not currently represented in the National Wilderness Preservation System, and consequently the WSA is recommended for permanent protection as wilderness.
WSAs are subject to a four step process: wilderness inventory, wilderness study, suitability recommendation, and Congressional action. The wilderness inventory determines if the area has wilderness characteristics: a minimum size, having a natural appearance, and having outstanding opportunities for primitive recreation or solitude. The wilderness study evaluates the quality of those characteristics, and any other potential uses of the land. The suitability recommendation is made by the President to Congress to designate or not designate the area as wilderness. Finally, it is Congress that has the authority to permanently protect the area as wilderness or allocate the land to other uses.
Cowboy Spring was determined to have wilderness characteristics; those characteristics were found to be high quality; and the President recommended the WSA as wilderness in 1992. BLM remains watchful for opportunities to secure public access to this area, recognizing in the inventory that this area has the potential to provide outstanding opportunities for primitive recreation and solitude. Please respect private property rights. For more information, please visit the Cowboy Spring WSA website.
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