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BLM Opens Southwest Colorado to Oil, Gas Development

PHOTO: A recent BLM Resource Development Plan is being widely criticized for putting the interests of oil and gas companies ahead of landowners, wildlife and the health of Mesa Verde National Park. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.
PHOTO: A recent BLM Resource Development Plan is being widely criticized for putting the interests of oil and gas companies ahead of landowners, wildlife and the health of Mesa Verde National Park. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.
March 3, 2015

DENVER - Conservationists, land owners and local officials all say they're concerned about the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Tres Rios Resource Management Plan.

The plan opens up over 90 percent of the 800,000 acres managed by the BLM to oil and gas development in southwest Colorado. Chris Saeger, director of the Western Values Project, says the BLM's decision failed to include adequate public input.

"What the BLM has done, in this case, is to open up thousands of acres of land to oil and gas development, potentially at the expense of agriculture, at the expense of sportsmen and sportswomen, and everybody who cares about clean air and clean water," says Saeger.

The BLM refused La Plata County's request for a Master Leasing Plan, which Saeger says would have included farmer and rancher voices on developments that could impact their livelihoods. Agriculture accounts for 2,200 jobs and more than $800,000 in direct income in La Plata and Montezuma counties.

The BLM did create a region-wide standard for air quality, but critics of the plan say it's unclear when or how those measures will apply. Air in the region is currently just below the ozone level considered unsafe, something usually only seen in urban areas. Tom Pittenger with Park Rangers for Our Lands says the BLM's plan fails to protect air quality at Mesa Verde National Park.

"We do think you need a balance between resource development and preservation," says Pittenger. "We just don't think the plan, as it came out, looks at that balance at all."

The BLM maintains it followed all applicable laws and regulations, and says it considered all relevant resource information and public input before the final decision was made.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO