Bureau of Land Management continues conservation efforts at Red Cliffs

Sign marking the entrance to Red Cliffs National Conservation Area with the Adams House on the bottom left and the Cordura movie set bottom right, Red Cliffs NCA, Utah, Oct. 20, 2017 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Bureau of Land Management recently acquired around 40 acres within the boundaries of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area in Washington County for $1.7 million.

According to a press release, the BLM acquired this parcel with funds derived from oil and gas leasing on the outer continental shelf through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“This private land acquisition will be a critical piece of the land management puzzle that supports our habitat conservation efforts in the Red Cliffs NCA,” Acting Utah State Director Anita Bilbao said in the release. “The BLM collaborated face-to-face with a willing private seller in order to help protect species like the Mojave desert tortoise.”

Under Secretary David Bernhardt’s leadership, the BLM continues its commitment to conservation stewardship and partnerships with local communities, the press release continued, adding that the BLM is making good on this commitment by resolving complicated land management challenges related to a mix of private and public land ownership within the reserve.

Since the development of the Washington County Habitat Conservation Plan in 1996 and commitments made by the plan, the BLM has assisted in the county’s efforts to consolidate habitat ownership.

“Getting the private land out of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve was part of the bargain struck in 1996 to recover the tortoises and allow Washington County to keep growing. I am happy to see BLM making progress in fulfilling that promise to the landowners,” Congressman Chris Stewart said.

Mojave desert tortoise in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, Washington County, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, St. George News

The Red Cliffs NCA is an important component of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, a multi-jurisdictional land base that has been collaboratively managed by BLM, the state of Utah, Washington County and local municipalities since 1996 to protect populations and habitat of the threatened Mojave desert tortoise and other at-risk native plant and animal species. It encompasses two wilderness areas, the Red Cliffs Recreation Area, the Red Cliffs Campground, over 100 hundred miles of nonmotorized trails, as well as heritage public use sites.

“The Red Cliffs NCA is a treasure to our local communities and nation, and we are proud to work together with our partners in Washington County to find ways to best manage our lands,” St. George Field Manager Keith Rigtrup said.

The acquisition aligns with Secretary’s Order 3356, which directs the BLM and other Department of the Interior Bureaus to identify ways to expand access for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation on agency-managed lands.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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