Glenwood Springs citizens gather to fight limestone quarry
Jeff Peterson, executive director of the Glenwood Springs Citizens Alliance, said during a Thursday hike into the public land where RMR Industrials wants to expand a limestone extraction mine that he has “not heard from one person who supports the quarry.”
The Citizens Alliance and Wilderness Workshop organized the hike to offer a close look at what it would look like for the quarry to expand from 20 to nearly 400 acres.
One of the hikers was West Glenwood resident Ryan Randolph, who said the hike gave him “a lot more understanding of the actual impact we can expect.”
“It’s the first time I’ve hiked up into the actual area they’re going to disturb, and it’s beautiful. It’s gorgeous, the birds and the trees. Places like that should be protected,” Randolph said.
The proposed expansion of RMR Industrials’ quarry could be months or years out. RMR has submitted two draft proposals, but the Bureau of Land Management returned both of them as incomplete.
After the BLM says the proposal is complete, the environmental review process, including public meetings, would have to be scheduled.
The Citizens Alliance’s online petition against the quarry has gathered around 1,500 signatures, Peterson said. Now, the group is working to solidify the coalition and find meaningful ways to fight against the proposed quarry expansion.
The hike into the BLM land where RMR wants to expand the quarry was meant to show what the impacts of the quarry could be.
“There’s a lot at stake here,” Brandon Jones of Wilderness Workshop told the small group of hikers. “Really, appreciating what we have is something that I want us to do while we’re out here,” he said.
Brandon pointed out the flowers blooming, and the amount of tree diversity on the hillside. The juniper, pinon, and the spruce trees on south-facing hillside above the current quarry help provide winter foraging for wildlife, Jones said.
“This is our land. Of course it’s multiple-use, but it’s our job to voice our opinion on how it should best be used, or not used. And the wildlife itself has an inherent value and right to this place,” Jones said.
Local officials are doing what they can to push back against the expansion. The Glenwood Springs city council passed a resolutionin March opposing the proposed expansion.
Garfield County Commissioners found RMR was not in compliance with the current permits, but have not officially weighed in on the proposed expansion. Days before the deadline to come under compliance with the county’s permit, RMR sued the board of commissioners, saying it had no jurisdiction to enforce a permit that conflicted with federal guidelines.
One of those issues is that RMR is operating on about 21 acres, when the county permit, and the BLM’s initial permit, only allows for about 16.
During the hike, Peterson acknowledged that RMR did inherit some issues from the previous owner, CalX.
“They did inherit some boundary issues,” Peterson said. The BLM had required CalX to issue a new plan of operations that reflected they were operating outside their permitted area by January 2013.
“CalX didn’t do it, the BLM didn’t follow through with any enforcement,” Peterson said. “When RMR purchased the quarry and the mineral rights [in 2016], they were again told they needed to come into compliance within a reasonable time period, and issue a new plan of operations.”
“But instead of issuing a new plan of operations that would take care of the permit issues, [RMR is] going big guns for the whole enchilada,” Peterson said.
Local officials have scheduled meetings with BLM officials for this week, and Peterson wants to capitalize on those discussions.
“We’re asking that people email the head of the Colorado BLM, Jamie O’Connell, and [local Colorado River Valley Field Office Director] Larry Sandoval, to note this issue and how important it is to our valley and our community ahead of their meeting this week with the community of Glenwood Springs, to make them aware of what this is and why it’s so broadly opposed,” Peterson said at the end of the hike.
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