Three lawmakers vow to keep pushing for Roan Plateau protections |

Three lawmakers vow to keep pushing for Roan Plateau protections

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Three members of Colorado’s congressional delegation are pledging to continue their push for a plan they believe would balance protection of the Roan Plateau with energy development on the mineral-rich landmark.

Sen. Ken Salazar and Reps. John Salazar and Mark Udall, all Democrats, are working on legislation that would include most of the proposals offered by Gov. Bill Ritter but rejected this month by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

They plan to introduce a proposal soon.

“I can assure the fight isn’t over,” John Salazar told a group last week during a trip on the West Slope with the senator, his brother.

Ritter wanted to expand the amount of land considered too environmentally sensitive to develop to 36,184 acres, from 21,034 acres.

State officials also proposed phasing in oil and gas leases on top of the plateau rather than leasing the land all at once as a way to increase what companies are willing to pay and better control the effects of development.

The BLM ignored most of Ritter’s suggestions and submitted a plan that differed little from one announced last June.

“Since the BLM has not accepted the governor’s proposal, it’s up to Congress to do what must be done to protect the resources on the top of the Roan Plateau,” Udall said in a statement Friday.

Udall noted that several area residents, elected officials, hunters, anglers and environmental groups want the wildlife habitat, open space and water on the Roan Plateau protected.

Ritter didn’t recommend banning drilling on top, although some groups and area communities have called for that.

The Roan Plateau near Rifle has become a battleground in the push for more domestic energy production because it’s rich in natural gas ” several trillion cubic feet in deposits ” but also has abundant wildlife and broad ecological diversity. It provides habitat for the state’s largest deer and elk herds, mountain lions, peregrine falcons, bears, rare plants and genetically pure native cutthroat trout dating to the last ice age.

The BLM’s plan projects 193 well pads and 1,570 wells over 20 years, including 210 wells from 13 pads on top. The BLM says the proposal would preserve 51 percent of land on top of and below the plateau while allowing recovery of more than 90 percent of the natural gas.

On top, the BLM calls for oil and gas drilling to be done in stages and clusters to limit disturbance to 1 percent of the federal land at any time. Development would be focused on slopes with less than a 20 percent angle.


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