BLM hosts first plan revision open house |

BLM hosts first plan revision open house

Donna GrayGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colo. Members of the public were outnumbered by Bureau of Land Management specialists Tuesday in the first of a series of open houses hosted by the agency to launch a revision of its 1984 land use plan for the Glenwood Springs Field Office.The scoping meeting at the Rifle firehouse is a first step in a process that will guide BLM land use decisions for the next 20 years. BLM is also revising the Kremmling Field Office resource management plan (RMP) in the same process.The public is invited to submit suggestions for issues the BLM might consider during revision of the plan.On display were a series of maps of the field office area, which includes most of Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin counties. Among the issues that will be considered in the RMP will be wildlife, recreation, travel management, wilderness, and what is on the mind of many who live in the western reaches of Garfield County, oil and gas development.”Through the scoping process we might identify more (issues),” said BLM community planner Brian Hopkins.”About 95 percent of BLM lands west of the Grand Hogback are leased” for oil and gas development, said BLM spokesman David Boyd. The hogback marks the eastern margin of the natural-gas rich Piceance Basin, which is the epicenter of gas exploration and production in western Colorado.BLM considers the area east of New Castle and extending just north of Silt, roughly following the curve of the hogback, as the eastern extent of what it describes as the area with highest potential for natural gas development.In the area north of the Colorado River near Rifle and Silt, “there are not as many natural fractures, the gas is tighter,” said BLM geologist Fred Conrath, and it’s harder to get it out of the ground. He predicted gas leases on both federal and private land will continue to be developed. There won’t be much movement anytime soon away from where gas development is now concentrated – south of the river between Silt and Rifle and in the Parachute and Battlement Mesa areas.”We’ve got so much acreage leased, and there’s plenty left to be developed,” he said. “The natural progression will be to develop those leases before moving on” to other, more marginal areas.The few members of the public who visited the open house Tuesday were interested in issues related to oil and gas development. Bret Closs, who lives on Grass Mesa, south of Rifle, was concerned about visual impacts on nearby Flatiron Mesa if it is targeted for gas drilling. He said the east and west faces of the mesa are steep and highly visible from Interstate 70. BLM has given it a relatively low rating for visual resource management. Closs wants that to be upgraded.The low designation “means they can hack it to pieces” building a road up the face of the mesa if drilling is permitted there, he said.Closs would also like BLM to consider limiting the time a company has to drill wells off a pad. Some pads near his house were drilled three years ago and plans call for finishing drilling in 2009. “They won’t clean it up until 2010,” he said. “Five to six years on a pad is unacceptable.”BLM is accepting scoping comments until May 2, Hopkins said. They can be made online at The site also has information about the RMP process.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 16605dgray@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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