BLM ‘friends’ rendezvous in Junction

Around the West, groups of citizens with an interest in particular areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management have organized to assist the BLM with those lands, lobby for their protection and work to promote tourism.

About 160 of those citizens, representing 45 “friends” groups in every state in the West except Idaho, will be in Grand Junction this weekend for the fifth annual Friends Rendezvous, sponsored by Colorado Canyons Association and organized by the Conservation Lands Foundation, a nationwide organization that assists the smaller groups. They’ll be meeting this evening through Sunday at the Courtyard by Marriott on Horizon Drive.

Many of the people attending this weekend work with small groups supporting isolated lands, said Owen O’Fallon, chairman of Colorado Canyons, which works with the BLM on McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area and Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area.

Those are three large and popular areas within 60 miles of each other, and with two BLM field offices nearby. 

“We’ve had meetings with friends groups whose land is 120 miles from the nearest BLM office,” O’Fallon said.

The diverse needs of these groups are part of the reason the Conservation Lands Foundation was created in 2007, said John Wallin, senior vice president of programs for the group.

The Landscape Conservation System, also called National Conservation Lands, includes many of the BLM lands throughout the West that have been given special protection — 16 national conservation areas, 18 BLM national monuments, 767 wilderness areas and wilderness study areas, as well as wild and scenic rivers, national historic trails and scenic trails.

O’Fallon cited budget figures that show National Park Service receives roughly $32 per acre per year to manage its lands. By contrast, the BLM receives about $1.85 per acre per year for all of its lands. For national conservation areas, the funding is slightly better — about $2.25 per acre per year.

“That’s why friends groups are so important,” he said. “We don’t make up all the difference in funding. But we provide volunteer efforts” on trail construction and maintenance, as well as some funding assistance.

The Friends Rendezvous allows members of these groups to get together and attend seminars on fundraising, member outreach and tourism promotion. And they meet with BLM officials involved with these lands.

This year, the head of the BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System will speak on Sunday.


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