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Release Date: 02/22/12
Contacts: Denise Adamic, 719-269-8553    

BLM Seeks Input on Blanca Wetlands Area Expansion (02-22-12)

LA JARA, Colo. — The Bureau of Land Management’s San Luis Valley Field Office (SLVFO) is seeking public input to guide an environmental analysis for a proposal to expand the Blanca Wetlands Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).

The Blanca Wetlands area was designated an ACEC for its recreation and wetland values, including playa and marsh habitats containing large populations of water birds, amphibians, macroinvertebrates, and 13 threated, endangered and sensitive species.

As part of this project, the BLM will complete an environmental assessment (EA) to analyze the potential impacts of enlarging the Wetlands ACEC. The EA will also evaluate cattle grazing on the Lakes, Dry Lakes and Blanca Wetlands allotments.

“Blanca Wetlands is one of the San Luis Valley’s gems,” said San Luis Valley Field Manager Andrew Archuleta. “The public’s input on this project is important to helping shape how we manage this special area.”

The SLFVO is hosting an open house to hear from the public and share information. The open house is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, from 4 – 7 p.m. at the SLV Regional Medical Center Education and Conference Center (east of the Grizzly Inn), 1919 Main St., Alamosa, Colo.

The public is invited to comment at the open house or in writing before March 16, 2012. BLM will use that input to identify issues to be addressed in the EA. Be aware that your entire comment – including your personal identifying information – may be made publicly available. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to withhold any personal information.

Comments may be mailed to the Bureau of Land Management, (Attn. Jill Lucero), 15571 County Rd. T.5, La Jara, CO 81140 or e-mailed to

For maps and more information about this project, visit the SLVFO website at or call Jill Lucero, BLM Wildlife Biologist at 719-274-6327. 


Blanca ACEC Expansion FACT SHEET:

What is Blanca Wetlands?
Blanca Wetlands is 10,000 acres of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The area is part of a wetlands network of playa lakes, ponds, marshes and wet meadows.  It is all that remains of a wetlands ecosystem that once covered the desert scrub within the closed basin of the San Luis Valley. Today, many of the historic wetlands are dry because of increased competing demands for both surface and groundwater.  The BLM and its partners have made strides in preserving and managing the wetlands environment at Blanca Wetlands to provide rich and diverse habitats for wildlife and a haven for people.

What is an ACEC?
Blanca Wetlands has been designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, or an ACEC. This BLM designation is based on an area’s unique, rare or sensitive resources. Blanca was designated an ACEC specifically for its recreation and wetland values, including playa and marsh habitats containing large populations of water birds, amphibians, macroinvertebrates, and 13 threatened, endangered, and sensitive species.

Why expand the ACEC?
BLM has initiated studies with state, local and other federal partners over the last decade. These studies suggest that large-scale management efforts across ownership boundaries, could mimic natural ecological processes and provide greater management flexibility to meet the purposes of the ACEC. 

This research also suggested a need to create connectivity from Blanca Wetlands north to allow less mobile species the ability to disperse. This irrigated connection would allow wetland species to move freely between larger environments and help to restore key wetland habitats native to the area.  Such restoration would require easements, acquisitions, or other efforts with willing landowners.   This ACEC expansion will provide an opportunity for BLM to work with willing land owners to acquire parcels important for wetland connectivity or restoration efforts, potentially benefitting more than 160 bird species, 5 species of amphibians,  and threatened and endangered species.

How will the expansion work?
Before any actions are taken, the BLM’s San Luis Valley Field Office will prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA). This EA will analyze a proposal to expand the ACEC to include adjacent lands that share the ACEC values and characteristics.  The BLM will analyze a range of alternatives from leaving the ACEC the size it is, to various levels of enlargement up to the size of the project area boundary.  The BLM will use comments from the public to help design these alternatives.

What is an Environmental Assessment (EA)?
An EA is a public document that a federal agency prepares under the National Environmental Policy Act.  The document analyzes whether a proposed agency action would require preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) or a finding of no significant impact. 

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

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Last updated: 02-23-2012