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El Malpais WSAWelcome to Wilderness Wednesday, our weekly posting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

This week we are highlighting the El Malpais Wilderness Study Area (WSA).  El Malpais means “badlands” in Spanish, so named because of the rugged lava flows typical of this area, which do not easily support human activity.  In this WSA you will encounter sparsely vegetated lava plains, occasional open grasslands, piñon-juniper woodlands, and open stands of ponderosa pine.
Congress identified four agencies to manage wilderness areas including two agencies that you will encounter in this location:  The BLM and the National Park Service (NPS).  The other two agencies are the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Though none of this land is designated as wilderness, both the BLM and NPS have recommended these lands be designated as wilderness, through studies Congress required the agencies to conduct.  Only Congress can designate areas for permanent protection as wilderness.
From I-40, turn south on Highway 53 (Exit 81) at the west end of Grants.  About 16 miles south of I-40, park at the NPS’s Zuni Acoma Trail trailhead adjacent to and on the south side of Highway 53 (note: the NPS requires a permit for anyone parking overnight here).  Hike approximately 1.5 miles south to the intersection with the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST).  Take the right fork, continue hiking south a short distance, and continue following the Trail west about a mile to a fence crossing where you will leave NPS lands and enter BLM lands.  The CDNST continues into the El Malpais WSA on the other side of the fence.  There are no water sources on this Trail.
For more information, please visit the El Malpais WSA website

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Last updated: 06-25-2014