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Commissioners approve plan for Roan Plateau

With a nod to both sides of the debate, the Garfield County Commissioners put the seal of approval on their recommendations for management of the Roan Plateau Tuesday.

While they endorsed the Colorado Department of Natural Resources one-operator, minimal-impact natural gas drilling plan for the top of the plateau, the commissioners also urged the Bureau of Land Management to take a conservative approach to gas development.

“The ideal of ‘multiple use’ of public lands is supported by Garfield County, but that ideal should not be translated into a policy that implies ‘every possible place’ as a land-management strategy,” the commissioners’ comments read. “Prudent land-management decisions would operate on a premise of an absolute minimization of harm to areas with multiple and potentially competing values.”



Although she acceded to the majority opinion of the board, Commissioner Tresi Houpt could not agree with the view of her fellow commissioners. Houpt pushed for a recommendation to keep gas drilling off the top of the plateau.

“I’m disappointed we weren’t willing to take the lead (and) agree with the notion to not develop on top or to defer it,” Houpt said.



“We’re saying the debate is still open,” said Commissioner John Martin.

Commissioner Larry McCown agreed with Martin.

“It’s clearly the BLM’s view … that the NOSR (Naval Oil Shale Reserves) I and III (on top of the plateau) be leased as practicably possible,” he said, and the board of county commissioners should not take an opposite view.

Houpt said she would send her own recommendations to the BLM.

Garfield County, Glenwood Springs, Parachute, Rifle and Rio Blanco County held a series of meetings with the BLM over the summer as cooperating agencies with the BLM, contributing their desires for management of the plateau. The BLM in turn said it would take their recommendations into consideration when it crafts the preferred alternative to the plan in the ensuing months.

Last week, both Rifle and Glenwood Springs said the BLM should not lease its land on top of the plateau for drilling. Earlier this year, the towns of Carbondale, Silt and New Castle voted to support the Community Alternative, proposed by some environmental groups that would defer drilling on top for 20 years until better technologies are developed to get gas out of the ground without disturbing the top of the plateau.

Rio Blanco County and the town of Parachute have said they support the DNR plan for drilling on the top.

According to the DNR plan, oil and gas would be offered in 2,500-acre leases but would be developed by one operator sharing costs and revenue with the lease-holders. Drilling would be confined to the ridge tops where roads already run. Surface disturbance would be limited to a small percentage of the entire lease, so if the operator wanted to move on to another ridge, it would have to reclaim all or a portion of the allotted acreage in order to do so.


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