Roan Plateau debate begins anew
The federal government expects to kick off a winter’s worth of debate over the future of the Roan Plateau with the release of a draft management plan Friday.Environmentalists on Tuesday announced, and Steve Bennett of the Bureau of Land Management confirmed, that the agency hopes to release the plan on that day. It will identify a preferred draft alternative for managing the plateau during the next two decades, including a recommendation on the controversial question of what level of energy development should occur on and around the plateau, which is northwest of Rifle.The draft plan’s release will precede a 90-day public comment period, after which the agency will consider that input in coming up with a final plan for the plateau, said Bennett, associate manager of the BLM’s Glenwood Springs Field Office.The plan’s release is expected to receive national attention. The Bush administration has identified the plateau as a high-priority area for natural gas development, but environmentalists and local communities want to protect it as a scenic, environmental and recreational haven.The plan is being released about a year later than hoped for, after the agency revisited some preliminary alternatives for the plateau following concerns expressed by cooperating agencies. They include Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, the state of Colorado, and the towns of Parachute and Rifle.The plateau towers 3,000 feet above the Colorado River Valley. Once a Naval Oil Shale Reserve, it was transferred by Congress to the BLM in 1997.The BLM is considering a management plan not only for the plateau itself but for the surrounding region. The plan will cover about 127,000 acres, of which about 69,000 acres are public land. Depending on how it is defined, the plateau itself comprises some 45,000 to 53,000 acres.Environmentalists and every municipality in Garfield County endorsed a preliminary alternative, Alternative F, that called for no drilling on the plateau top. Environmentalists say their proposal would still allow drilling on about half the public land in the planning area. They say they helped generate more than 10,000 comments to the BLM urging adoption of Alternative F.The BLM eliminated that alternative from consideration as it moved forward with its work on the draft plan, paring down six preliminary alternatives to four in what agency officials called an effort to eliminate duplication. However, they say the idea of not drilling on the plateau top, and other components of Alternative F, will continue to considered within other draft alternatives.The BLM also considered a new, fifth, alternative at the request of cooperating agencies, after they questioned whether the other four adequately addressed their concerns. Garfield County Commissioner John Martin said the BLM appears to be headed toward identifying that fifth alternative as its preferred one.The BLM plans to hold public meetings on its draft plan. The plan will be available in printed form and on CD at the Glenwood Springs office, 50629 Highway 6, and online at http://www.roanplateau.ene.com. Environmentalists also have been operating their own Web site on Roan Plateau issues at http://www.saveroanplateau.org.The BLM plans to hold public meetings on its draft plan. The plan will be available in printed form and on CD at the Glenwood Springs office, 50629 Highway 6, and online at http://www.roanplateau.ene.com. Environmentalists also have been operating their own Web site on Roan Plateau issues at http://www.saveroanplateau.org.
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