BLM chief checks out Roan Plateau
Post Independent Staff
Kathleen Clarke nods slightly when asked about Alternative F, because she has heard and read about the controversial proposal at her U.S. Bureau of Land Management office in Washington, D.C.
Hearing and reading about the BLM’s Alternative F for the Roan Plateau is one thing. Seeing, smelling, touching and walking the plateau, 3,000 feet above the Colorado River valley floor northwest of Rifle, is another. That’s why Clarke, the Bureau of Land Management director, toured the plateau area Tuesday.
Clarke first stopped in Glenwood Springs Tuesday morning as part of a statewide tour. She met with local BLM staffers, and a small group went up the Iron Mountain Tramway to view last summer’s wildfire damage from an Exclamation Point restaurant observation deck.
From there, she headed west for a tour of the Roan Plateau.
“I’m trying to get a sense of what the Roan Plateau resource values are,” Clarke said Tuesday during a brief stop in Glenwood Springs, “so I can relate personally to what the locals are telling us they would like to have done.”
Glenwood Springs, Rifle, Carbondale, New Castle and Silt endorsed Alternative F, one of six original proposals the BLM presented for its Roan Plateau Resource Management Plan.
Alternative F put 43,000 acres of the Roan Plateau area’s 73,000 acres off limits to oil and gas exploration.
In reconfiguring the alternatives from six lettered options to four numbered options, the elements of Alternative F were divided up.
In letters to the BLM, Alternative F supporters have said the Roan Plateau is one of the most biologically diverse areas on the Western Slope, and is an outstanding habitat for fish, wildlife and rare plant species.
Environmentalists also say the plateau should also be considered for wilderness designation. Clarke said the BLM is trying to balance wilderness concerns with traditional uses such as mining, grazing and energy production.
“We have a broad scope of activities to pursue,” Clarke said. “There’s always conflict. Someone always loves every acre of land and wants it to be protected just so. We have to weigh local values with national values, local needs with national needs, and try to look for a balanced program.”
BLM plans to release its Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Roan Plateau Management Plan later this summer.
Clarke said environmentalists and gas industry representatives asked to go along on the Roan Plateau tour, but she declined to take either group. She did invite the Garfield County commissioners to talk if they could catch up with her tour.
“I’d be happy to meet with them if they want to join up,” Clarke said.
The county commissioners were not available for comment.
Clarke, appointed by President Bush as BLM director in 2002, is the former director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, which goverened the state’s wildlife, parks, natural resources, oil and gas, mining and forestry.
“We did a whole range, and had a lot of interaction with the BLM,” Clarke said.
Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534
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