BLM rejects conservation groups’ protest | AspenTimes.com

BLM rejects conservation groups’ protest

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

PARACHUTE, Colo. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has rejected a protest by conservation groups that claimed the agency failed to consider the full impacts on wildlife of a 139-gas well development near here.The Colorado Mule Deer Association, Colorado Wildlife Federation and the National Wildlife Federation said the BLM failed to require a plan detailing the full extent of natural gas development and to disclose accurately the extent of effects on mule deer winter range. The groups said the BLM didn’t consider new information about the effects of energy development on mule deer in Wyoming.Last week, the BLM rejected the groups’ call to reconsider and withdraw the plan for the 4,280-acre area.Lynn Rust, deputy director of the Colorado BLM office, wrote in a letter to the groups that the agency “adequately analyzed, disclosed and mitigated the impacts of the proposed action and is thereby upheld.”Some of the state’s largest elk and deer herds are in western Colorado. Concerns about the impacts of energy development on wildlife have grown as the area has seen record rates of gas drilling.Michael Saul, an attorney for the National Wildlife Federation, said he needed to consult with the groups to see if they want to file a further appeal.”I have to say my initial reaction is I’m a bit disappointed because it appears that the BLM acknowledges the principal issue we’ve raised,” Saul said, “that they’re really only looking at the very immediate future of what’s happening in the area and not the full scope of development that everyone can reasonably anticipate.”The BLM found that the drilling by EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) would have no significant environmental impacts.But the conservation groups contend that BLM’s decision looks just a few years ahead and doesn’t consider longer-term impacts on wildlife habitat. They said full development of the area likely will result in one well every 10 acres, which would intensify the impacts.Rust wrote in the letter to the groups that no proposal or information “currently exists to make a reasoned analysis of potential future development” in the planning area.The BLM added that that results of recent studies on mule deer in western Wyoming weren’t directly applicable to the Parachute project because of differences in the number of deer and scope of development.Saul, though, said the BLM seems to be looking for differences between Wyoming and the Parachute area without having any science to back them up.