Public Lands Management

Weigh in on the future of our waters on public lands.

Forest Planning

As a headwaters state, many of our beloved rivers and streams begin in the high alpine forests of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. The winter snow accumulates and then melts in these forests, feeding into our rivers every spring and fueling the lifeblood of Colorado. How Colorado’s forests are managed directly affects our rivers, including water quantity and quality, fish and wildlife, public access and river recreation opportunities, and agricultural and municipal water supplies. In Colorado, around two-thirds of Colorado’s forests are on public land and the United States Forest Service is the federal agency that manages the majority of these forests and the rivers that flow through them. 

National Forests are tasked with managing vast acres of land and thousands of river miles that all have competing demands, uses, and ecosystems. This is accomplished through forest-wide management plans that serve as blueprints for 15 to 20 years before they are rewritten and reshaped in the context of current landscapes, ecosystems, and uses. National Forest planning is a critical opportunity to determine rivers as “eligible” for Wild and Scenic River designation, securing interim administrative protections for their outstandingly remarkable values. Residents and visitors to these special rivers know them best and it is up to us to make sure rivers on our public lands receive the protection they deserve. Not only is public input helpful to inform these management plan revisions, it is required by federal law.

Make your voice heard in current Forest Planning Processes.

Bureau of Land Management Resource Management Planning

The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also stewards rivers and streams that flow through public lands managed by the agency. In Colorado, major stretches of the Yampa River, upper Colorado River, Arkansas River and Dolores River run through BLM-managed public lands – to name just a few of the many valuable waters affected by BLM management decisions.

The BLM is required to identify, evaluate and protect rivers and river segments that may eventually be designated Wild and Scenic Rivers by Congress. Similar to the U.S. Forest Service, the BLM accomplishes this through long-term land management plans which the BLM calls Resource Management Plans. Once the BLM identifies a river as eligible for designation under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the agency must apply interim protective management for the outstanding river values while the BLM proceeds with a suitability study. If the BLM finds the river to be suitable for designation, then actions can be taken by the agency to implement long-term interim protections such as closing the river corridor to new mining claims.

Throughout the BLM’s identification and management process, there are many opportunities for public engagement to ensure our outstanding rivers are protected. Engaging in the BLM’s resource management planning processes is an important way for us to get involved in protecting our public lands and waters.

Engaging in the BLM’s resource management planning processes is an important way for us to get involved in protecting our public lands and waters.