Adopt Alternative F to manage Roan Plateau |

Adopt Alternative F to manage Roan Plateau

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is looking at six scenarios for managing the scenic Roan Plateau northwest of Rifle. Public comments are due by tomorrow.

The alternatives range from a continuation of present management to no-holds-barred access for gas drilling companies to a conservation-minded plan that includes new wilderness area and stream protections.

This newspaper supports Alternative F, which goes the farthest in protecting the natural beauty, wildlife habitat and grazing pastures of the plateau. This alternative is also supported by a coalition of environmental groups and was endorsed last week by the Glenwood Springs City Council.

It would put the cliffs and much of the top of the plateau off-limits to gas drilling.

In the midst of intensive drilling on surrounding public and private lands as drillers capitalize on a strong market for natural gas, the Roan Plateau has gone untouched because it was off-limits to any mining or drilling until 1997.

Now that the BLM has taken over management from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Bush administration is pushing for new guidelines that would accelerate drilling in the area.

With the widespread success of directional drilling, gas companies should still be able to access most of the underlying reserves without disturbing the surface.

Meanwhile, Alternative F would recommend to Congress three new wilderness areas – two along the majestic cliffs and one on top of the plateau. It would protect the three remnant populations of the rare native cutthroat trout and provide a wide expanse of wildlife habitat that will benefit hunters. It’s the best way to go.

– Heather McGregor, Managing Editor

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