A History of the Plan
Over 11,000 citizens and local municipalities sent in comments and passed resolutions in support of this option. Then, in 2003, BLM dropped this balanced alternative from further consideration, reversed its pledge to consider Wilderness Study Area protections for the Roan’s qualifying public lands, and signaled its intent to open all of the area to oil and gas leasing.
In November 2004, BLM released a draft version of its plan for the area. None of the Draft Plan options presented a preservation-focused alternative, and local communities and citizens across the state again raised their objections to BLM’s decision to turn over these popular public lands to the oil and gas industry. During the comment period on the Draft Plan, local communities passed a second series of resolutions supporting a compromise plan (the “Community Alternative”) that would allow for large volumes of gas to be produced from the Planning Area, but would still manage the public lands on top and critical habitat at the base for other values and uses.
By the time the comment period closed on the Draft Plan, nearly 75,000 comments were received, with 98.5% in support of strong protections for Roan Plateau and opposed to drilling the public lands on top.
After the Draft Plan comment period closed in April 2004, BLM held a series of meetings with its cooperating agencies – the cities of Rifle and Glenwood Springs, Garfield and Rio Blanco Counties, and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Through these meetings a separate plan was crafted, which the public was never given the opportunity to consider. This new plan became the preferred alternative in the proposed Final Resource Management Plan and EIS, issued in September 2006. Although this plan contains some innovative features, many observers did not feel it went far enough to protect Roan Plateau or offer the type of community-supported plan promised by the BLM and long proposed by citizens and local government.
Just prior to the release of the final plan, local governments passed a third set of resolutions, again urging BLM to award Roan Plateau the protection it deserves, and which the public overwhelmingly supports. Although no comment period was offered on the final plan, local governments tried again, with area mayors endorsing a letter written by the City of Glenwood Springs urging that BLM reconsider its proposed plan to lease the entire Planning Area for oil and gas development, and asking for additional public comment on the new plan that came from the cooperating-agencies meetings.
BLM Decision and Legislative Efforts
Governor Ritter requested 120 additional days to review the BLM’s decision, and – due to Senator Salazar pressing the issue – the BLM relented, awarding this additional review period in July 2007. At the same time, Congressmen John Salazar and Mark Udall added provisions to the House energy bill which would seek to avoid damage to the public lands atop Rona Plateau, in part by requiring that energy companies access the reserves through directional drilling from wells located on private lands (which make up over one-third of the Planning Area). Although the energy bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate version of the bill did not include this provision and, unfortunately, this measure to protect the Roan Plateau stalled.
In December of 2007, after his 120-day review period, Governor Ritter issued a set of recommendations he argued would improve the BLM plan for the Roan Plateau by expanding protection for wildlife and water and calling for phased leasing. However, in March 2008, the Bush Administration rejected even these limited proposals and decided to move ahead with its plan to drill.
As a result, the effort to protect the Roan moved back to Congress as Senator Salazar and Represenatives Salazar and Udall continued to work for a legislative solution. The legislation introduced in April would essentially codify Governor Ritter's recommendations into law, requiring that the BLM pursues a phased leasing strategy to slow down the pace of development on the Roan as well as including expanded protections for water, cutthroat trout and critical big game habitat. The future of this effort remains unclear.
In June 2008, the Bureau of Land Management, at the direction of the Bush Administration, officially put all the undeveloped public lands atop the Roan Plateau on the auction block at their August 14th lease sale. This decision was condemned by a broad coalition of environmental, wildlife and sportsmen organizations along with local governments, Senator Salazar and Governor Ritter. Citizens, organizations and elected officials are allowed to submit formal protests of the Roan Plateau's inclusion in the August lease sale through July 30th.
In addition, the Campaign to Save Roan Plateau announced that a number of organizations will also be challenging the BLM in court. They will argue that BLM failed to properly consider alternatives that would protect the Roan’s most sensitive resources and failed to account for all of the project’s impacts to the region’s air and wildlife. In doing so, litigation will seek to compel the BLM to address the environmental and fiscal impact of its plan to industrialize the Roan Plateau’s public lands.
Protection benefits the economy
Protection preserves important wildlife habitat
According to the BLM:
For the relatively small size of the geographic area, the [Roan Plateau] is extremely species rich. There are only three areas of similar size in Colorado that contain such a richness of rare species . . . Although the [plateau] is clearly of comparable biological significance, it is the only area of the four hat does not enjoy protective status. [Glenwood Springs Resource Area Final SEIS, January 1999.]
Local citizens oppose drilling
Surrounding areas already being drilled
Colorado's Congressmen have spoken up for protection
For more fact sheets, municipality resolutions, BLM documents, and more background information, click here .
|Last Updated ( June 17, 2008 )|