BLM offers oil and gas leases on potential wilderness areas
DENVER – The government sold oil and gas leases on 48,000 acres in western Colorado on Tuesday, prompting complaints from environmental groups that the state’s pristine areas are being put at risk.About 15,000 acres of the land have been proposed as federal wilderness by Colorado residents and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo. In the last 18 months, the Bureau of Land Management has offered oil and gas leases on a total of 43,600 acres seen as potential wilderness.Many of the parcels offered in the latest auction form the heart of the Colorado Plateau, said Pete Kolbenschlag of the Colorado Environmental Coalition.”Some of them are the most impressive red-rock country we have in Colorado,” Kolbenschlag said.None of the 61 parcels put up for lease by the BLM was in federal wilderness or areas under study for wilderness designation, agency spokeswoman Hillerie Patton said.The auction generated $3.6 million, according to preliminary estimates. Energy companies paid $6.6 million in May to lease 72,000 acres of federal land in western Colorado.The BLM withdrew 16 parcels before the auction. They included land along the Dolores River in Mesa County that is part of wilderness proposals by DeGette and advocates.Patton said more environmental review was needed of the parcels.Steve Smith, assistant regional director of The Wilderness Society, said he was glad the BLM was taking more time on some of the leases but was concerned about others that were approved.The Wilderness Society and other conservation groups protested leasing 20 of the parcels. The BLM can’t issue a lease until it considers the protest. The BLM’s decision can be appealed to the Interior Board of Lands Appeal in Washington, D.C.The Wilderness Society and other conservation groups protested leasing 20 of the parcels. The BLM can’t issue a lease until it considers the protest. The BLM’s decision can be appealed to the Interior Board of Lands Appeal in Washington, D.C.
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