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Beautiful Photos of the Rio Grande Natural Area in Colorado by BLMer and Tumblr Blogger Kyle Sullivan

The Rio Grande Natural Area was established in 2006 to conserve the natural, historic and cultural, scientific, and recreational resources of the 33-mile stretch of the Rio Grande between the southern end of the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge and the Colorado-New Mexico state border.

The photos were taken on a windy day, evidenced by the ripples in the water and the dust cloud seen to the north in some of the photos. This time of year, strong wind creates sandstorms that pick up sand from the valley floor and deposit the sand in the Great Sand Dunes National Park on the eastern edge of the valley.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the area.

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Happy 100th Birthday to Rocky Mountain National Park!

Kyle Sullivan, employee at the BLM Colorado’s Royal Gorge Field Office, snapped these great wildlife photos in Rocky Mountain National Park. Visitors can access BLM public lands from the park via Trail Ridge Road in the summer. 

Congratulations, neighbor.  100 looks great on you!

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Looking for a spooky hike? Walk among the dead at Oil Well Flats in Colorado. The north and east sections were burned years ago in the Cooper Mountain Fire. The resulting landscape is otherworldly, with sandstone spires that tower above the charred remains of piñons and junipers.  It’s a spectacular landscape, especially at dusk. 

By Kyle Sullivan, BLM

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In 1986, the Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Department of Corrections formed a partnership that created the Wild Horse Inmate Program (WHIP), administered from the Royal Gorge Field Office in Cañon City, Colorado.
 
Through the WHIP program, BLM mustangs are trained by inmates who undergo both classroom and on the job training through an accredited college curriculum. Since the inception of the program, more than 3,000 inmates have participated. The inmates also benefit by gaining meaningful and marketable work experience they can use when they are released.
 
On average, seven to 10 horses are trained every month and are ready to be adopted.
 
BLM holds adoptions two Fridays per month at the East Cañon Correctional Complex outside Cañon City, Colorado, where the public can adopt untrained, saddle trained and halter trained mustangs.

Learn more about the BLM’s adoption program: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/whbprogram/adoption_program.html 

-Kyle Sullivan

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Take your journey along the Gold Belt National Scenic and Historic Byway

Here’s our third dispatch for American Guide Week!

The geology and history of the Gold Belt National Scenic and Historic Byway are unmatched. As you traverse from Cañon City to Cripple Creek and back, consider the historical significance of the region. Some of the most complete fossil discoveries of all time occurred along the route. The mining towns of Cripple Creek and Victor played a large role in drawing people to the region and provided an economic engine.

The Garden Park Fossil Area is a world renowned fossil locality, National Natural Landmark and home to the famous Bone Wars between rival paleontologists Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh. Garden Park played an important role in the “Great Dinosaur Rush” of the West and established dinosaurs in the public consciousness. The fossil discoveries in Garden Park affected the whole course of American paleontology and the fossils continue to yield significant scientific and educational information regarding the history of life on earth. Fossils from Garden Park can be found in museums across the country, including the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in D.C., the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.   

Bring a towel to wipe the sweat off your hands as you traverse the rugged Shelf Road. For five miles, the dirt road hugs sheer rock walls above Fourmile Creek. To bump up the adrenaline rush, rent a jeep and take the doors and top off! Have a camera ready for numerous photo opportunities of the local residents: deer, big horn sheep, coyotes and wild turkeys thrive in the Fourmile Creek canyon.

Oil Well Flat is a series of trails named after the first oil well west of the Mississippi River, and the second well to produce oil in the United States. The trails allow you to explore thousands of acres of your public lands by foot, bike or horse. The system of trails is great for stretching your legs before the tour, or shaking off the jitters from driving Shelf Road. 

Shelf Road Climbing Area is one of the best climbing areas in the nation for shoulder season climbing. The mild weather combined with thousands of climbing routes means that decent climbing conditions can be found nearly every day of the year. Keep the kiddos close, The Banks campground is situated at the top of the cliff, allowing for spectacular views for sunrise and sunset.  Numerous trails are good for those who prefer to stay on the ground but want to watch the action.  

The Phantom Canyon road follows the route of the once glorious Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad. The F&CC Railroad hauled rich gold ore from the mines near Cripple Creek and Victor to processing mills in Florence. On July 12, 1912, a massive flood tore through the canyon, ripping out the railroad. By 1918, the route reopened, this time for passenger cars.  A series of tunnels were hand-drilled and dynamited out of solid granite, and are especially cool features to drive through.  Photo Caption: The Steel (Adelaide) Bridge is the only remaining bridge from the F&CC Railroad. Don’t drive over it too slow!

Recommended Route: Start in Cañon City early in the morning. Take Red Canyon Road north, which turns into Garden Park Road and then Shelf Road. Stop for lunch in Cripple Creek or Victor, then take Phantom Canyon Road back to Cañon City. 4WD highly recommended – better yet, rent a jeep and take the doors and top off.  Dispersed camping is available along the route, but the best camping sites are located at BLM’s The Banks Campground along Shelf Road. 

-Kyle Sullivan, Public Affairs Specialist for the Front Range District

BLM Colorado Intern Conducting Research on Public Lands Wins Big at Science Fair

Tayler Rocha, a high school intern for the Bureau of Land Management-Colorado San Luis Valley (SLV) Field Office, recently presented her research findings during the SLV’s monthly staff meeting. As her research shows, Rocha is quickly becoming a youth to watch for great success! For the second year in a row, she received numerous awards and honors for her science fair project, which was designed to answer management questions targeting wildlife, riparian and wetlands issues on BLM-managed land in Colorado’s San Luis Valley.

Tayler Rocha collects macro-invertebrates at San Luis Lakes as a part of her science fair project about endangered southwestern willow flycatcher habitat.

This year, Rocha’s project recommendeds strategies for managing endangered southwestern willow flycatcher habitat based on results from her research. She compared habitat characteristics on burned versus unburned lands as well as on occupied versus unoccupied habitat within the BLM’s Simpson/ McIntire property. The property was recently designated as critical habitat for the SWF, and a 900-acre wildfire in Spring 2013 provided the perfect opportunity for her study. Rocha received mentorship from Loree Harvey, an SLV seasonal employee, along with Monte Vista School District science teacher and other BLM employees.

Tayler takes water samples as part of her research.

Rocha’s project has not only taken her to Colorado’s statewide Science and Engineering Fair, but will also be instrumental in the future management strategy for the critical habitat. She has been a seasonal employee or volunteer for the wildlife program for the San Luis Valley Field Office for four years, and this is her second science fair project focused on assisting the BLM with management strategies for this important habitat.

Tayler Rocha proudly stands by her science fair project that analyzed critical habitat for the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher at the 2013 Regional Science Fair.

This year, Rocha received top honors at regional and state science fairs as well as the International Science and Engineering Fair. Over the past four years, she has consistently placed in the top three spots at the regional and state science fairs and even received a full-ride scholarship to Drexel University based on her research for the 2013 International Science and Engineering Fair.

Last November, Rocha applied to the highest-level research competition for non-college students, the Intel Science Talent Search. The competition is only open to high school seniors, and approximately 2,000 students nationwide enter each year. Students compete for top prizes, to include a week in Washinton D.C. to tour the nation’s capital and meet the President. Rocha was selected as one of 300 semifinalists. No student from the San Luis Valley has ever made the first cut, and only a handful of Colorado students in the last decade have made it this far. The BLM San Luis Valley Field Office proudly celebrates her success!

-Jill Lucero, Wetlands Biologist in BLM SLV; Alyssa Radcliff, Wildlife Biologist, BLM SLV; Kyle Sullivan, Public Affairs Specialist, Front Range District; and Courtney Whiteman, Public Affairs Specialist, Colorado State Office

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I was #MadeinAmeriCorps.

AmeriCorps Week provides me with the perfect time to reflect on how serving in AmeriCorps has changed my life. While challenges for youth today are great, my experience with AmeriCorps has led me to believe that the path to our future is paved with opportunity.

At the end of last summer, my fellow corps members and I shared our different perspectives on life; we shared goals for the future; but most of all, we shared the dream that we DO make a difference. AmeriCorps gives us the tools we need to overcome the challenges of unemployment, assists with the costs of college, and provides services that benefit our country now and in the future. 

Join AmeriCorps. You won’t regret it.

-Kyle Sullivan

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Let’s Talk Trash

What did you do this earth day? Boy Scout Troop 286 collected 4,700 pounds of trash on public lands near Monte Vista, Colorado. Scouts camped out and cleaned up public lands near the San Luis Valley Landfill from April 19 through April 21, coinciding with Earth Day and the Boy Scout’s national Good Deed Week. The BLM supplied tools, gloves and other support for the Scouts. Waste Management donated a dumpster, and Brown’s Septic Service donated a toilet facility for the weekend. The San Luis Valley Landfill supplied a location for the Scouts to legally dump the collected trash. Also helping were the San Luis Valley Regional Solid Waste Authority, Rio Grande National Forest, and Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado. 

-Kyle Sullivan

TAKE A HIKE DAY!  Even a hike close to home…

My favorite metro-Denver hike is the Beaver Brook Trail, which provides breathtaking views of Clear Creek and the distant snow covered peaks. The 10.1 mile trail is about 10 minutes from BLM’s Colorado State Office, but feels worlds away. The hike offers the perfect opportunity to get away from it all and reconnect with nature, right in my backyard.

-Story and photo by Kyle Sullivan