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BLM plan includes Deep Creek recommendation

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has finalized new management plans for BLM-administered lands and minerals in northwest Colorado, including a recommendation for Wild and Scenic River designation for portions of Deep Creek in eastern Garfield County.

Formal Records of Decision establishing revised Resource Management Plans (RMPs) for both the Colorado River Valley and Kremmling field offices were signed Wednesday by BLM Colorado State Director Ruth Welch.

The decisions provide a framework for managing lands and minerals for the next two decades, and brings to a close a nine-year planning process that involved coordination with numerous state and local agencies, the public and other stakeholders.

Draft plans were released in May of 2014, followed by a formal protest and appeal period that drew responses from off-road users, mountain bikers and energy and conservation interests.

“Through the significant help we had from our cooperators and the public, we have crafted two Resource Management Plans that provide balanced approach to conserving natural resources while allowing the economic activity so important to local economies,” Welch said in a prepared statement.

The Colorado River Valley RMP deals with both motorized and non-motorized travel and management of other surface uses on 505,200 acres in parts of Garfield, Pitkin, Eagle, Mesa, Rio Blanco and Routt counties.

It designates approximately 680 miles of routes for motorized use and 577 miles for non-motorized use.

Five areas totaling 34,400 acres are identified for protection of existing wilderness characteristics, including Thompson Creek west of Carbondale and Deep Creek.

Deep Creek runs through both Forest Service and BLM lands from the Flat Tops area to the Colorado River at Dotsero.

Wild and Scenic River designation for the two BLM segments of Deep Creek would need to be considered alongside a Forest Service determination that the waterway is “suitable” for inclusion into the National Wild and Scenic River System.

Formal wild and scenic designation for any waterway requires Congressional action.

The BLM deferred suitability determinations on two segments of the Colorado River totaling 61 miles in order to adopt a stakeholder-based management plan.

The new BLM management plan also addresses oil and gas and other mineral leasing on 707,200 sub-surface acres.

Most of the 147,500 acres with “high potential” for oil and natural gas production within the Colorado River Valley Field Office are already leased and will continue producing under the plan.

The 98,100 acres closed to future oil and gas leasing include State Wildlife Areas, areas managed for wilderness characteristics, municipal boundaries and other designated recreation areas or Areas of Critical Environmental Concern.

The Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop and other conservation groups had protested the BLM plan, saying it did not adequately mitigate the impacts of oil and gas development on human health and the environment.

“We had hoped that BLM would address our concerns by releasing a plan that protects wildlife, water and air that we all share and depend upon,” said Will Roush, conservation director for the Wilderness Workshop.

“This field office has a lot to balance as they estimate 15,644 additional gas wells will be drilled in the next 20 years,” he said. “We asked them to push that balance towards people’s health. We think they missed an opportunity to do so.”

The Kremmling-area management plan covers 377,900 surface acres and 653,500 acres of subsurface mineral estate in Grand, Jackson, Summit, Larimer and Eagle counties.

The BLM intends to amend both RMPs to incorporate revised management of greater sage-grouse habitat upon completion of the still-pending Northwest Colorado Greater Sage-Grouse sub-regional planning effort.


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