CASTLETON TOWER PRESERVATION INITIATIVE
The Castle Rock Collaboration, branch of Utah Open Lands, continues to seek funding to purchase sensitive wildlands in Castle Valley, Utah. Our goal is to eventually protect all of the 4,500 acres of unique and irreplaceable desert country currently owned in Castle Valley by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), and now threatened with development.
Castle Valley, northeast of Moab, Utah, is a place of incomparable beauty, connecting southeast Utahs La Sal Mountains with the canyons of the Colorado River. Porcupine Rim, rising l,700 feet from the valley floor, edges the western skyline in an undulating ridge ten miles long. To the north, across the chasm of the river corridor, one glimpses the fantastic landscape of Arches National Park. The magnificent forms of Parriott Mesa, Priest and Nuns, the Rectory, and Castleton Tower stand to the east. Finally, on the south rise the snowy and wild peaks of the La Sal Mountains, home to bear, bighorns, elk, lions, and mule deer. Snowmelt feeds streams and springs supporting an agricultural oasis at the lower end of the valley. The upper end is critical winter range for deer and elka steeply ridged forest punctuated by the dramatic igneous form of Round Mountain. The valley is bordered by three federal Wilderness Study Areas.
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As a rural desert community, we are bound together by the watershed we share. Our sole-source aquifer is born in the basins of the La Sal Mountain range. Water is our Commons. As we work out our future, our survival depends on the quality and the adequacy of our water supply. In Castle Valley we have a unique unconfined aquifer-this means any one action taken in any part of the system literally affects the whole. Water is precious to us. Our commitment to planned, sustainable, and responsible growth supports our continued existence in this arid environment.
This beautiful valley has a long history of relatively low impact human use. A few ranches covered the flat, arable land in the 1870s. Some of these ranches are now farms, while the largest became the incorporated town of Castle Valley in 1985, now home to some 350 people. Open range and great sweeps of eroded talus slopes rising to sheer red rock escarpments contain and embrace us.
Some of these open lands are owned by the US Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service; however, the largest land owner is SITLA.
WHAT MOVED US TO ACT
In the spring of 1999, the sale by auction of a 120-acre tract of SITLA-owned land piqued the interest of some residents of the town of Castle Valley. This land at the base of Parriott Mesa was purchased by a local developer and his Aspen-based business partner. The Castle Rock Collaboration branch of Utah Open Lands is now in the process of purchasing this land from the developer to preserve it as open space.
The rumored auction of other SITLA lands in Castle Valley led citizens to contact the agency with their concerns about the effect of unplanned development. SITLA agreed to place a moratorium on the sale by auction of their properties in Castle Valley, as long as the community entered into a planning process with them. This reprieve gave the community time to search for conservation partners to help preserve open space. As this planning process gives both conservation and development value to lands, we continue to seek options that will guarantee the preservation of the entire tract.
ESSENTIAL VALUES OF THE LAND
Castle Valley is much photographed and enjoyed by thousands of visitors yearly. From the La Sal Mountain Loop Road Scenic Byway, travelers view rugged and wild expanses of awe inspiring unbroken space. There is little opportunity worldwide to experience such peace and magnificence. These commanding views provide sojourners with experiences of unparalleled beauty. Local touring companies depend on these vistas to delight their clients.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
The Castle Valley community and Utah Open Lands are celebrating not only the completion of the Castleton Tower Preservation Initiative, but also the successful collaboration it represents --individuals, foundations, the outdoor recreation industry, climbers, local activists, and their conservation partners. We look forward to continuing the work of preserving additional spectacular wildlands in the region.