EnCana reconsiders closing access in Roan area | PostIndependent.com

EnCana reconsiders closing access in Roan area

Pressured by hunters, a natural gas producer has backed off plans to end public access to 20,000 acres north of Parachute and use of a popular road to the Roan Plateau.EnCana Oil & Gas USA Inc. had planned to cut off the access to the so-called Girls Claims area and Cow Creek Road because of liability concerns. But it reconsidered after intervention by state Rep. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction.Penry said he had received calls from constituents all over the Western Slope concerned about the possible loss of access to hunting and recreation grounds. He then had several conversations with EnCana, which agreed to keep access open next year, and to negotiate with him and the Colorado Division of Wildlife on a possible agreement for longer-term access.”To their considerable credit I think they’re trying to be good neighbors,” Penry said Tuesday.Cow Creek Road reaches the Roan Plateau from the north. The 20,000-acre Girls Claims area is on the north end of the 23,000-acre North Parachute Ranch, also owned by EnCana.EnCana bought the Girls Claims area from Unocal for gas development after Unocal ended its local oil shale development efforts. The area’s name comes from the fact that old mining claims there had been named after women.A 1986 court decision provided for 20 years of public access to the lands. EnCana spokesman Doug Hock said that access is set to end next August, and the company had considered closing access afterward due to liability concerns.However, he said EnCana now hopes Penry may be able to intervene with legislation that would protect EnCana from potential liability associated with public access.”It’s something we may re-evaluate down the road, but for the time being those (lands) will remain open,” he said.Denny Behrens, a director with the Colorado Sportsmen’s Wildlife Fund, said it appears an advisory group of sportsmen and landowners will try to work with EnCana to reach a long-term agreement for access.”I think it’s in their best interests, and I think it’s good for sportsmen and the general public as well,” he said.Behrens said Cow Creek Road provides the best access to the public lands on the Roan Plateau. The JQS Road, near Rifle, has switchbacks that can become treacherous when snowy, he said.He said nonhunters enjoy going up onto the plateau for the fall colors, and also making a loop drive up Cow Creek Road and down the JQS Road.Hock said the Cow Creek Road goes through EnCana property. He said as far as EnCana can determine, there is no easement requiring it to allow public access through its property on the road.The public land on top of the Roan Plateau is administered by the federal Bureau of Land Management, which is currently preparing a management plan for the plateau.

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