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Colorado: Rocky Flats wildlife refuge land swap finalized

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A land trade adding new land to Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge will help connect the federal parcel to regional open space and trail systems.

Expansion helps link parcel to regional open space and trail networks

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal, state and local officials have finalized a complex land swap that expand Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge by about 1,200 acres and connect the refuge to regional open space and trail systems.

“Today’s action will significantly expand one of the cornerstones of Colorado’s open space and trails network and will protect the Front Range’s mountain backdrop as one of the state’s crown jewels,” said  Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “I applaud all the partners who have come together with the state and local communities to connect people to the great outdoors and to take this key step toward realizing the Rocky Mountain Greenway as America’s next great urban park.”

The Rocky Mountain Greenway will connect hundreds of miles of trails in the Denver metropolitan area. linking the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Rocky Flats and Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuges, Rocky Mountain National Park, and community trail systems.

The land exchange is a part of a larger set of transactions involving private landowners and other public entities that will result in the conservation of habitat and recreation lands.  Together, these transactions seek to eliminate development threats to the western edge of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, connect the Refuge’s protected plant and animal habitats to conserved land owned by local government open space programs, and buffer the Refuge near its southern boundary.

“This addition to the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge will help protect the future of both Colorado’s natural and human resources,” said Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. “The additional land will create more quality open space and wildlife habitat northwest of Denver and will bring nearly $9.5 million to support public schools and the state school trust. We want to thank all the partners involved in this incredibly beneficial investment in Colorado’s future.”

“I commend the collaborative effort by all the parties to come to agreement on this important land exchange” Rep. Ed Perlmutter said. “Enhancing the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge connects our communities across the region, maintains our open spaces, protects our wildlife and improves recreational opportunities for generations to come.”

The trade was finalized after a federal appeals court last week denied an emergency motion to block the land transaction. As part of the refuge expansion, the Service transferred a 300-foot wide strip of land on the eastern boundary of the Refuge to the Jefferson Public Parkway Highway Authority for transportation improvements. The transfer of the Indiana Street transportation corridor is required by the Refuge’s authorizing legislation.

The land exchange offers the protections of the National Wildlife Refuge System to a large, contiguous and intact tract of xeric tallgrass prairie. Xeric tallgrass prairie only exists on a narrow band of the Colorado Piedmont, east of the mountain front in Colorado. The xeric tallgrass prairie grassland on Rocky Flats and the City of Boulder Open Space nearby to the west are believed to be the largest remaining tracts of this plant community in North America.

Additionally, portions of land that the Service will receive include additional riparian habit for the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, a species listed by the federal government as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1998.

Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge sits at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.  The refuge site played an important role in Cold War history as a Department of Energy-operated facility for the production of plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads.  The refuge entered U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stewardship in 2007 following the Environmental Protection Agency’s determination that corrective cleanup actions had been completed.

For additional information on the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, please visit: http://www.fws.gov/rockyflats/.

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