830 Acres Protected in McInnis Canyons (CO)

GRAND JUNCTION, 8/11/2005 – The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today it has closed on the purchase of six parcels of land totaling 830 acres in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area.

TPL will immediately transfer the land, which it has purchased from the Jouflas family of Grand Junction, to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The parcels are located within Rabbit Valley, on the western edge of the National Conservation Area (NCA), and will be managed by BLM for their natural and recreational values.

U.S. Senator Wayne Allard, former U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, and former U.S. Representative Scott McInnis were instrumental in securing the federal funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect these properties.

“I am proud and pleased that the Bureau of Land Management and the Trust for Public Land, working together, have been able to complete this acquisition and protection of an invaluable Colorado resource,” Senator Allard said. “The funding provided by Congress has allowed us to consolidate federal ownership and protect the conservation area’s incomparable natural beauty, and ensure that it is preserved in its current undeveloped state for future generations to enjoy.”

Senator Allard now sits on the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee that provided funds for the purchase. Former Senator Campbell sat on the same Subcommittee until his retirement from the Senate in 2004.

“I am extremely pleased that everyone was able to come together and preserve this special area for the public,” said former U.S. Representative Scott McInnis, for whom the area is named. “I want to congratulate all those involved for a job well done. I especially want to thank Trust for Public Land for working tirelessly to make sure this happened.” While in Congress, McInnis was a strong advocate for conservation of this and other special areas in Colorado.

“Acquiring these inholdings in this spectacular area has been a priority for the Bureau of Land Management for years, and we are thrilled that the Jouflas family is making these lands available for the public’s benefit,” said Paul Peck, Manager of McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area.

“Our family has been raising sheep in Colorado since the 1930s,” said Chris Jouflas, speaking on behalf of his family, which has owned the property for over 40 years. “Since the 1960s, we have been using the NCA property each year from November to May as wintering and lambing ground before moving our sheep to summer pasture. Though we no longer need the property due to changes in our operations, we can’t think of a better place for it than as part of the National Conservation Area, open and available to the public. We appreciate the Trust for Public Land’s hard work in helping to make this a reality, and we hope the public will get as much satisfaction from it in the future as our family has over the past 40 years.”

“We knew that successful acquisition would require a team effort,” stated Catherine Robertson, Manager of the BLM’s Grand Junction office. “TPL took the lead on negotiating the purchase and working with Senator Allard to secure federal Land and Water Conservation funding. The greater Grand Junction community has been unwavering in its support and desire to see this area protected. And the Jouflas family deserves a huge pat on the back for giving all of us an opportunity to acquire these valuable natural lands for the public.”

The six parcels are part of eight that the Jouflas family owns that are totally within the borders of the 122,000-acre McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area just west of Grand Junction. The NCA is a land of spectacularly sculpted red rock canyons cut by the Colorado River and features breathtaking sandstone arches and spires. Negotiations are continuing to secure the remaining two parcels, which total 670 acres.

“We’re happy that the Trust for Public Land was able to play a role in bringing all the parties together so this wonderful part of the Colorado Plateau can be enjoyed by everyone,” said Doug Robotham, Colorado State Director for The Trust for Public Land. TPL purchased the land for $753,000.

Without protection, the Rabbit valley inholdings would have been prime candidates for second homes. By acquiring the land, the BLM will be able to provide better access to the Colorado River for rafters, more biking and hiking areas as well as protect wildlife habitat. Mule deer, desert bighorn sheep, and other mammals, as well as birds such as Scott’s orioles, tail-flipping gray vireos, peregrine falcons and bald eagles live in the canyons.

“This acquisition is an example of how a community partnership can accomplish great things,” said Bill Byers, president of the Friends of McInnis Canyons NCA. “Collaboration among a private landowner; local, state and federal governments; the local community and a nonprofit organization was key in conserving this land for all to enjoy.”

“Closing on these six Jouflas parcels shows a tremendous level of success and compromise among the Jouflas family, the BLM, the Trust for Public Land, and many others committed to the preservation of the McInnis Canyons NCA,” said Greg Trainor, utility manager for the City of Grand Junction and President of Friends of Westwater Canyon. “The Jouflas family should be commended for ensuring that the lands within the Colorado Canyons area are preserved from development,” Trainor said. “This step reflects the strong heritage and connection of the Jouflas family to this region. We hope that the process can continue and that remaining parcels owned by Chris Jouflas and his family can be acquired soon.”

The effort to conserve additional lands in McInnis Canyons is receiving important support from Colorado’s Congressional delegation, led by Senator Allard. “There is more work to be done, but the protection of these lands for all Coloradans is certainly worth the effort,” said Allard.

Congressman John Salazar, another strong supporter of this protection effort, added, “We need to work together to preserve our lands for future generations. The areas acquired today are a resource for the entire community – for everything from recreation to enjoying nature’s beauty. I am proud to continue Congressional support for preserving this landscape for generations to come.”

U.S. Senator Ken Salazar, a former Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and a founder of Greater Outdoors Colorado as well as a lifelong rancher from the San Luis Valley, applauded the achievement saying, “Preserving our natural heritage is one of the greatest gifts we can give to future generations. This respectful cooperation between private land owners and the BLM bodes well for other natural areas so that all Coloradans can enjoy our state’s wild rivers and rugged landscape in a natural setting.”

“TPL and the Jouflas family are continuing negotiations with the hope that the BLM and the public can obtain the last two parcels,” Robotham said. “We are confident that by continuing in the spirit that led to the purchase of the six parcels a fair deal for all can be reached.”

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than two million acres of land in 46 states. In Colorado, TPL has worked with private landowners, community groups, and public agencies to protect almost 75,000 acres of land. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. For more information, visit us on the web at www.tpl.org. For further information on the High Elk Project, visit www.tpl.org/highelk.