Mayors ask BLM to reconsider Roan Plateau plan | AspenTimes.com

Mayors ask BLM to reconsider Roan Plateau plan

The Associated Press

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ” Five mayors in Garfield and Pitkin counties want the Bureau of Land Management to reconsid­er a plan to allow oil and gas drilling on top of the Roan Plateau in northwest Colorado.

The mayors said last month in a letter to state BLM Director Sally Wisely that the agency didn’t listen to area communi­ties when it approved a management plan opening the top to energy development.

“We are concerned that the new pro­posed plan released by the BLM does not reflect what the communities in Garfield County have been asking for since the beginning of the planning process in 2001 ” protection of the top of the Roan Plateau from drilling and responsible development at the base to protect the traditional values and uses on which local communities depend,” Glenwood Springs Mayor Bruce Christensen wrote.

The mayors of Silt, Carbondale, New Castle and Aspen signed the letter.

Christensen also objected to provi­sions of the final management plan released in September that were proposed after the public comment period closed. He said the BLM should take more com­ment and hold more public meetings.

Christensen said Friday that area resi­dents hope the BLM will wait a few years before leasing the public land atop the plateau.

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“Maybe there will be less destructive technology 10 years down the road,” he said. “Federal priorities seem to be a lit­tle different right now.”

BLM officials were unavailable Friday because of the Veterans Day holiday.

The formal protests, including those from 14 conservation, hunting and fish­ing groups, will be considered as the BLM finalizes the decision on managing the 73,602 acres of federal land on and around the plateau.

The Roan Plateau, which straddles Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, is rich in natural gas and oil shale. It’s also home to such wildlife as elk, deer, moun­tain lions, peregrine falcons, bears and rare, native Colorado trout.

Critics worry that energy development will damage the area and make it unat­tractive to the hunters and recreationists who contribute to the area economy.

In a preliminary plan in 2004, the BLM said it preferred a proposal to defer drilling on the top until 80 percent of the wells below the plateau’s rim were developed ” a process estimated to take 16 years.

The revised proposal in the final plan, which includes suggestions from the Col­orado Department of Natural Resources, would stage and cluster development so that no more than 1 percent of the 34,758 acres on top of the plateau would be dis­turbed at any one time.