Critic: BLM closes eyes to Plateau `vision’ | PostIndependent.com
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Critic: BLM closes eyes to Plateau `vision’

The Bureau of Land Management has pruned the options for its Roan Plateau management plan from six to four, and the environmentally popular Alternative F got snipped.Most of the elements in Alternative F have been shifted to other parts of the plan, however, and are still being considered, said Glenwood Springs BLM field office manager Jamie Connell. One question still unanswered is whether Alternative F’s proposal to make 43,000 acres proposed off limits to oil and gas leasing is still being considered.”I don’t see we’ve realistically taken anything off the table,” said Colorado BLM Director Ron Wenker. “A wide range of decisions is still open to us.”Environmentalists are not looking at the BLM’s table the same way. “Alternative F was a vision to protect the sides and top of the Roan Plateau,” said Suzanne Jones, assistant regional director for the Wilderness Society in Denver. “A lot of people found this vision compelling.”The BLM is drafting a management plan for the Roan Plateau northwest of Rifle. It was formerly operated as a naval oil shale reserve until its oversight was transferred from the Department of Energy to BLM in 1997.The draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Roan Plateau will be released in August.The original six alternatives were:-Alternative A – No action, with a continuation and extension of existing management constraints.-Alternative B – Preserving the naturalness of the area, using passive management techniques.-Alternative C – Maintaining traditional and alternative uses, which would allow some opportunities for new oil and gas leasing and development.-Alternative D – Maintaining ecological richness and unique ecosystem values, through active management.-Alternative E – Allowing for oil and gas leasing and development in the least restrictive manner.-Alternative F – Preserving the natural character, landscape features, ecological richness and unique ecosystem values through natural processes, and preserving the present recreational setting and experience.Connell said the BLM reduced the Roan Plateau management plan options from six to four to streamline the process, and to save money. She said much of Alternative F has been shifted over to Alternative B. She said she doesn’t know where the proposal to make 43,000 acres off limits to oil and gas leasing will end up, but it might be moved to Alternative A.”None of the really big elements has been taken out,” Connell said. “Everything is still included.”Alternatives E and F offer the biggest contrasts, with the 43,000 acres off limits to oil and gas leasing in Alternative F, and zero acres in Alternative E.Alternative B calls for 21,000 acres in wilderness study areas, which is a prerequisite for the land to be considered for congressional designation as wilderness areas, and would put it off limits to oil and gas exploration, said BLM associate field manager Steve Bennett.The entire Roan Plateau management area covers 73,000 acres, with the plateau itself jutting 3,000 feet up from the valley floor.Jones said her group rejects a BLM option of dividing the plateau up into a patchwork of wilderness areas and developed areas. “Our vision is not piecemeal protection,” Jones said. “We hope the BLM will take another look and give us what we are asking for.”All the municipalities from Carbondale to Rifle have passed resolutions endorsing Alternative F.”It doesn’t make sense to walk away from Alternative F,” Jones said “It’s a vision with such defining characteristics.”Wenker said the BLM has identified two areas with wilderness characteristics, and will try to incorporate those into the final management plan. “We’re trying our best to address their concerns, and will do what we can to protect those wilderness values,” he said. Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534lburton@postindependent.com


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