Adobe Badlands

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Adobe Badlands, stark, beautiful, with at least six species of native grasses -- so fragile and vulnerable with so many eager to tear it up, rip it up, knock it down. Just beyond the invisible boundary, nothing but terrible scars and garbage...we must preserve this last tiny pristine edge of what once was.

Andrea Robinson, Hotchkiss

Wilderness Qualities
The Adobe Badlands are best known for their mazelike adobe formations of gray and yellow Mancos Shale interspersed with fascinating canyons, mesas, and arroyos. The rugged northern slopes are covered with pinyon-juniper woodlands. The badlands offer scenic vistas of Grand Mesa, the Uncompahgre Plateau, and the San Juan Mountains. A threatened cactus species, the Uinta Basin hookless cactus (Sclerocactus glaucus), exists within the area.

At first glimpse, the Adobe Badlands appear unforgiving and void of life but, with closer inspection, one sees wildlife flourishing everywhere. Birds, such as the house finch, Gambel's quail, and pinyon jay are common in the area, while the turkey vulture, red-tailed hawk, and golden eagle are occasionally seen. Common reptiles found in the Adobe Badlands include desert striped whipsnakes and northern sagebrush lizards. Antelope can also be seen roaming the slopes of the area.

The Adobe Badlands provide an excellent area for geological interpretation. The Mancos Shale badlands were deposited by an ancient sea between 135 million to 65 million years ago. Marine fossils from this period can be found in the shale. Later, volcanic eruptions deposited a basaltic caprock which now forms the top of Grand Mesa. Erosion created the spectacular badlands in much of the area.

In recognition of the extraordinary natural and ecological values of the Adobe Badlands, BLM designated the majority of the badlands -- 6,783 acres -- as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern and an Outstanding Natural Area. BLM prohibits motorized recreation as part of its management strategy for the area. BLM did not propose wilderness designation for Adobe Badlands in order to maximize its administrative flexibility, but intends de facto wilderness management for the area. Conservationists believe that long-term wilderness values can not be adequately protected through temporary measures subject to administrative revocation. Congressional wilderness designation offers the best guarantee for preserving this extraordinary area.

Resource Information
Portions of three grazing allotments exist in the area but because of sparse vegetation, the badlands cannot be considered prime grazing land.

The Adobe Badlands were given a medium rating in the USGS's 1983 study of Petroleum Potential of Wilderness Lands in Colorado, but all nearby exploratory wells have been dry holes. Because of the area's small size, it is doubtful that its designation as wilderness would have any substantial effect on oil and gas production in the region.

Adobe Badlands is closed to motorized vehicles under BLM's present administrative management, largely to protect highly erodible saline soils. Current management includes approximately 6,800 acres as the Adobe Badlands Outstanding Natural Area and Area of Critical Environmental Concern, approximately 1,900 acres managed with an emphasis on protecting wintering big game herds, and the remainder, managed to protect the erodible soils.

BLM The Majority of the land within the proposed wilderness boundary. The Forest Service manages a small section in the area in the north; there are no private inholdings.

Adobe Badlands has no perennial water sources. The area drains the lower elevation slopes of the Grand Mesa.

Boundary Issues
The Citizens Wilderness Proposal adds land to the west side of the WSA to bring the boundary out to an existing road; removes small areas on the southeast that are heavily impacted by off-road vehicles; and adds land between Devil's Thumb and Dry Fork Reservoir, for a net increase of about 300 acres of BLM land. The CWP also adds a small portion of adjacent Grand Mesa National Forest, about 100 acres bounded by existing roads.


adobe badlands map
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Hiking towards Devil's Thumb in the
Adobe Badlands CWP.

Adobe Badlands CWP.



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