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Residents rally on behalf of Roan

Dennis Webb

When Parachute town patriarch Lee Hayward learned he had terminal cancer, his response was to head to a place with special meaning to him.So he went to the Roan Plateau, to picnic in a place he considered “the best spot in the world – probably heaven on earth,” Hayward’s widow, Judi, said Tuesday.Judi Hayward joined a handful of other Garfield County residents Tuesday in speaking up on behalf of the plateau at a news conference put on by the Campaign to Save the Roan Plateau. The event was at the Rifle Fire Protection District’s Station 1 in Rifle, which offers a clear view of the plateau to the west.The residents called for more protection of the plateau than would be provided in the Bureau of Land Management’s preferred draft plateau management plan.Hayward compared the energy industry to an engine going “full-steam ahead.””I hope that we can at least identify the brake and save a special spot in this world for my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren,” she said.The BLM last week released its draft plan for the plateau. It includes five proposed alternatives for managing the plateau, including its preferred plan, Alternative 3. That alternative would allow deferred drilling on the plateau top, possibly in about 16 years, after a threshold number of wells are drilled on surrounding public and private lands on the plateau’s base.Environmentalists and municipalities in Garfield County have called for no drilling on top.”Deferred drilling doesn’t protect the plateau. It just delays the inevitable,” said Bob Millette, a Glenwood resident and board member of the Ferdinand Hayden chapter of Trout Unlimited.He said Trapper and Parachute creeks on the plateau need better protection than proposed by the BLM. The agency is recommending a quarter-mile buffer from activities such as drilling on either side of the creeks. The plateau is home to genetically pure strains of Colorado River cutthroat trout.Larry Amos, a Western Slope outfitter for nearly 25 years, said he saw how energy development can harm wildlife back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when Exxon was doing oil shale development around Douglas Pass in extreme western Garfield County.”They totally destroyed the hunting in that area. … The same thing will happen here on the Roan Plateau,” he said.Amos said tourists are attracted to western Colorado by its public lands, and those are being threatened.”What is called land of many uses will only become land used by a certain few that drill on it,” he said.”We’ve seen what they’ve done on private land here in the valley. They’ve destroyed most private land they’ve come in contact with.”This year, state regulators issued EnCana Oil & Gas a notice of alleged violation in connection with contamination of the domestic water well at the home of Amos and his wife, Laura, south of Silt. Regulators think the gas is coming from the same Williams Fork geological formation that EnCana is drilling.Hayward acknowledged the energy industry can have its positive sides, too. She inherited a lot of mineral rights upon the death six years ago of her husband, who came from one of the founding families of Parachute.”I’m receiving some financial benefit from the gas and oil drilling so I’m not against what’s happening,” she said.But she believes the Roan Plateau, where her husband once ran a hunting camp, is worth protecting as a place “where we can go to see where the country was like 100 years ago.”Silt-area resident Lisa Bracken said the BLM plan “fails to account for what the public has asked for.””We shouldn’t be asking how far we can push it. We should be asking how lightly we can tread,” she said.The BLM will accept public comments on the draft plan over the next three months, in advance of preparing a final plan for the plateau.The BLM will accept public comments on the draft plan over the next three months, in advance of preparing a final plan for the plateau.


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