Who gets to use state’s federal land?

Judith Kohler
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Natural gas drilling dots the landscape beneath the Roan Plateau near Rifle. The federal Bureau of Land Management is working on a plan to determine who will get use swaths of its land in western Colorado.

DENVER ” Work is starting on mapping out the future of nearly 1 million acres of public land in western and north-central Colorado that encompass major recreational, wildlife and energy development areas.

The Bureau of Land Management will write a joint plan for managing the federal land overseen by two of its offices: Glenwood Springs and Kremmling. The resource management plan will cover the agency’s land in all or part of 10 counties and will update documents first written in 1984.

“This is what we use to set the stage for everything we do,” agency spokesman David Boyd said.

The document will provide a framework within which specific projects will be considered, he added.

The area has gone through big changes since the last comprehensive plans were completed. The population is growing in western Colorado and so is recreation on the public lands. Some of the country’s largest deer and elk herds roam the area, making it a nationally prized hunting spot.

State figures show that Garfield County, one of the centers of Colorado’s natural gas boom, accounted for about 31 percent of the nearly 6,000 drilling permits approved statewide last year.

But some of the area’s most intense energy development is outside the purview of the Glenwood Springs and Kremmling offices.

Boyd said only about a fifth of the 567,000 acres managed by the Glenwood Springs office involves some of the region’s busiest drilling. Much of that land, west of Silt, has already been leased and about 1,000 wells have been drilled.

The new plan will include revised drilling projections.

The plan will also cover 378,000 acres managed by the Kremmling office and a total of nearly 1.4 million acres of subsurface minerals. Some of those minerals are under private land.

The bureau is sponsoring open houses starting April 10 to hear what the public thinks should be in the plan. The deadline for comments is May 2.

“It really is important for folks to get involved as early as possible,” Boyd said.

It could take a couple years or more to complete the plan. The bureau will take more public comment as the document is developed.

Clare Bastable, conservation director of the Colorado Mountain Club, said combining the plans by the two field offices makes sense.

“It really forces the agency to look at the broad scale and the broad impacts that exist in both field offices,” said Bastable, a member of the Colorado bureau’s Northwest Resource Advisory Council.

Bastable said it will be important for the agency to closely analyze the potential for energy development and its social and economic impacts.

“We see the Kremmling field office as having a lot of recreation potential,” Bastable said. “It’s just an incredibly beautiful mountainous area.”