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J. Mijin Cha on March 1, 2007 - 10:00am
Over a dozen groups have filed protests against a plan by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to open up the top of Colorado's Roan Plateau to leases for drilling, which could be put up for bid as early as November. Oil and gas drilling already takes place on the plateau, but federal land managers have chosen to open the top of the Roan Plateau for drilling without waiting until resources at the bottom of the plateau are tapped. Oil in the undeveloped plateau could supply the U.S. with all of 5.8 hours worth of its oil needs. Gas in the undeveloped Plateau could supply the U.S. demand for a little over a month. All this in exchange for permanently scarring the unique landscape and rendering it unfit for hunting and recreation. And, more unsettling, is that the BLM recognizes the ecological and recreational importance of the area. A recent BLM study found that streams on the Plateau would meet the requirements to be designated as part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System by Congress. The BLM Draft Management Plan recognizes that several areas within the Plateau met the criteria to be designated as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern.
Challenging the Oil & Gas Industry: The Roan Plateau is just one of a number of key environmental areas that the BLM is looking to open up to oil and gas drilling, so the movement in Colorado has implications for challenging the hold of the oil and gas industry on federal land policy throughout the West.
The fight over the Roan Plateau has brought together new allies: sportsmen and environmentalists. They have joined concerns about preserving the ecological integrity of the area with concern about the loss of recreational areas-- and the loss of the $5 million a year generated for the local economy from hunting, fishing and wildlife watching.
The Save Roan Plateau group offers letters that
can be sent to the Congressional delegation and the Colorado Governor
protesting the BLM plan. Advocates should also on Colorado state
legislators to introduce legislation to set money aside to petition the
BLM to designate the Roan Plateau as a national recreational or
wilderness area. The existing National Park Service, Land and Water Conservation Fund could
also be tapped to provide matching grants to the state for purchasing
the land if BLM agrees. In fact, Montana's Governor Schweitzer just asked
the state's Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to get $15 million
of the state's surplus to buy land for new state parks and greater
access for public recreation.
Colorado can purchase the Roan Plateau and maintain it's beauty and continue access to sportsmen for hunting and fishing. Doesn't that sound more beneficial than ruining it all for 5.8 hours of oil use?