Thousands of Roan acres go on auction block today |

Thousands of Roan acres go on auction block today

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” The Bureau of Land Management is set to auction off about 52,000 acres of the Roan Plateau for natural gas drilling today.

The development comes after about seven years of controversy surrounding whether the Western Colorado landmark should be opened up for drilling.

The Roan Plateau Planning Area is a lucrative target because it is estimated to hold about 8.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which could provide Colorado with about $428 to $565 million in revenues over 20 years, according to the BLM.

But the Roan Plateau, which is northwest of Rifle, is also prized for its wildlife and its hunting and angling opportunities. The area provides important habitat for mule deer and elk, and also contains genetically pure native cutthroat trout.

“The lease sale is going to occur … as scheduled,” said Steven Hall, adding the sale was moved to a larger place in Golden to accommodate the increased public interest in the sale.

About 15,000 protests were filed with the BLM late last month over the agency’s decision to include Roan leases in today’s sale. About 98 percent of those protests were form letters, according to agency officials.

If the protests are rejected, they can be appealed to the U.S. Department of Interior’s Board of Land Appeals, which reviews appeals of the department’s decisions.

A coalition of about 10 environmental groups have also filed a lawsuit over the Roan that seeks to overturn the BLM’s management plan for the area and to block the lease sale.

As of late Wednesday, the most recent documents filed in connection with that lawsuit were summonses issued to Department of Interior Officials. Their answers are due on Sept. 15, court records show.

The lawsuit argues that the agency violated federal law for not considering the long-term environmental impacts its management plan could have on the area.

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassas, and Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., earlier this year introduced legislation, based on proposals by Colo. Gov. Bill Ritter, to alter the BLM’s plan for the area. However, they have not been able to get it passed before today’s lease sale.

The BLM is estimating that the sale of leases for the area today will bring in about $100 million to $300 million. However, some groups believe the leases could bring in as much as $2 billion.

Colorado stands to collect about half of the total take of today’s lease sale.

Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117

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