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Release Date: 02/26/13
Contacts: Mitch Snow , 202-912-7368  

BLM Issues First Rapid Ecoregional Assessment for Colorado Plateau

The BLM today issued its first Rapid Ecoregional Assessment, or REA, summarizing the conditions of the Colorado Plateau, one of the west’s iconic ecological regions.    

The initial REA encompass lands in four states, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.  It has an area of 32,387 square miles and includes land administered by 16 BLM field offices. 

Additional REAs covering the Central Basin and Range, Mojave Basin and Range, Northwestern Plains, Middle Rockies, Sonoran Desert and the Seward Peninsula-Nulato Hills-Kotzebue Lowlands ecoregions will be forthcoming later this year.   All of the REAs the BLM is creating are prepared in cooperation with other Federal and state land management agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of the Interior’s lead science agency.
“Rapid Ecoregional Assessments are aimed at sustaining the health and productivity of America’s public lands,” Acting BLM Director Mike Pool said. “They use existing scientific information to identify resource conditions and trends within an ecoregion, a large geographic area that shares similar ecological characteristics. Their large-scale approach is designed to help us identify patterns of environmental change that may not be evident when managing smaller land areas.”
“With their specific focus on climate change and other related factors altering the landscape of the West, the REAs will help the BLM better focus its efforts to meet President Obama’s call to ‘act before it is too late.’ They offer the BLM a way to integrate its conservation, restoration, and development programs in a cohesive manner as it works with its partners to maintain the health and prosperity of the public lands.”
REAs gather and synthesize existing data for all the lands in an ecoregion. They help identify important habitats for fish, wildlife, and species of concern. REAs also help identify areas that are not ecologically intact or readily restorable; and where development activities, such as transmission lines, may be directed to minimize potential impacts. REAs then gauge the potential of these habitats to be affected by four overarching environmental change agents: climate change, wildfires, invasive species, and urban and energy development. In contrast to more traditional BLM studies, the REAS do not assess the conditions of specific areas, such as grazing allotments, nor do they describe desired future conditions.
The REAs provide science-based information and tools for land managers and stakeholders to consider in subsequent resource planning and decision-making processes, such as Resource Management Plans and Environmental Impact Statements. The REAs themselves do not contain findings and recommendations, nor do they make management decisions or allocate resource uses.  The information, maps, and tools provided by the REAs should strengthen BLM’s analyses of the projected and cumulative effects of various management scenarios. 
“REAs can help us identify where the best opportunities exist for conserving or restoring key areas,” Pool added. “We are working at all levels of the agency, and with our many partners who participated in developing these REAs, to ensure this information is used when we develop management strategies to deal with broad-scale issues such as Greater Sage-Grouse conservation. We’re aware that other groups, such as the Western Governors’ Association, are working on broad-scale assessments and we encourage people who use the REAs to consider the results of these other assessments as well.”

Initial funding for the REAs came from the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009.  

The BLM, working with its partners, subsequently initiated additional REAs in the Northern Basin and Range, Snake River Plain and Wyoming Basin, and Yukon River Lowlands/Kuskokwim Mountains/Lime Hills ecoregions. The BLM has initiated pre-assessment activities for potential REAs in the Chihuahuan Desert, Southern Great Plains (3 ecoregions), Madrean Archipelago, and the Beaufort Coastal Plain, Brooks Hills ecoregions.   
The REAs will be made available on the internet as the data is released at The public release of each of the REAs will be followed by a public briefing that will be announced by the BLM in the local media.

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.

Last updated: 02-26-2013