BLM summarizes Roan comments
Controversy over the Bureau of Land Management’s draft plan for the Roan Plateau sparked a flurry of comments from the public. The BLM unveiled a summary of those comments Tuesday at a planning meeting with local governments and state agencies.The BLM received a grand total of 74,906 comments, primarily over the Internet. The public comment period closed April 11.Ninety-seven percent of the comments, more than 70,000, were form letters submitted on the BLM Web site. Less than 1 percent were hand-written letters, and about two percent were e-mails and faxes, said Maureen O’Shea-Stone, assistant project manager with Ecology and Environment Inc. of Boulder, which is consulting with the BLM on the Roan Plateau plan.For the most part, environmental or other special-interest groups that included the form letter on their Web sites sent the letters on behalf of individuals.Based on the zip codes included in some of the form letters, only about 7 percent came from Colorado, O’Shea-Stone said. Some were from as far afield as Guam and Australia. “Maybe there is some concern about the Roan Plateau in those areas, but it’s unlikely,” she said.The largest group of form letters support environmental protection and called for prohibiting leasing and drilling for natural gas on the top and cliffs of the plateau. It also called for deferring leasing until gas extraction technology is developed that does not impact the land surface.About 1,000 e-mail comments called for a final management alternative that balanced recreational use of the plateau with gas development. It also urged the BLM to defer gas drilling until the development of nonimpactive technology.Only a small minority of the comments, less than 100, favored development of natural gas on the plateau.When asked about the relative weight of handwritten, as opposed to form letters and e-mails, Connell said it depends more on the content of the comment. If it addressed a factual error or omission, that would carry more weight.”I did feel as if greater weight is put on a letter somebody crafted themselves … You should keep that in mind,” Garfield County Commissioner Trési Houpt said.O’Shea-Stone said the BLM reviewed every comment, and all will be listed in the appendix to the final plan with a BLM response.Connell was also asked about the shutdown of the BLM’s national Web site in April, and whether the flood of comments contributed to the failure. Connell said the problem was not with the Roan Plateau comments, which were actually handled by the consultant’s computer, but has been attributed to hackers and a concern with proprietary information on the site.
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