BLM releases draft supplemental EIS for Roan Plateau plan amendment

The US Bureau of Land Management released a draft supplemental environmental impact statement for its Roan Plateau Resource Management Plan amendment, and said it will accept comments on it through Feb. 18, 2016.

The draft SEIS addresses concerns raised in a 2012 judicial decision with respect to an area that is considered one of Colorado’s most ecologically diverse landscapes, the US Department of the Interior agency said on Nov. 17. Its preferred alternative also reflects a 2014 landmark settlement a wide range of stakeholders reached (OGJ Online, Nov. 24, 2014).

“For many years the Roan Plateau was a symbol of conflict in the American West,” BLM Director Neil Kornze said. “We are fortunate that a visionary group of local, state, and industry leaders, as well as sportsmen and conservationists, came together to create a new path for the future of the Roan Plateau.

“This draft document moves that vision forward and protects some of the state's most important fish and wildlife habitat while also allowing for oil and gas development in places where it makes sense,” he maintained.

BLM said that under its preferred alternative, the area atop the plateau, where 17 oil and gas leases were canceled as part of the settlement, would be closed to leasing, while two leases on top and 12 below the rim of the plateau would be retained.

It said that the draft SEIS also includes also includes two elements: more robust air quality analyses, and an analysis of the “Community Alternative,” which would require the natural gas under the top of the Plateau to be accessed from private land or areas below the plateau through directional drilling.

Community Alternative’s focus

The 2012 District Court decision required consideration of this Community Alternative, BLM noted. In addition to analyzing issues the 2012 court decision identified, it also considers options for managing conflicts between recreational target shooting and other recreational activities below the rim in the Hubbard Mesa area.

“Because Hubbard Mesa is within the Roan Plateau Planning Area, we have a chance to address user conflicts in the area through the SEIS process,” BLM Colorado State Director Ruth Welch said. “We don’t currently include any changes to recreation within Hubbard Mesa in our preferred alternative, but we could include changes later depending on public and cooperator comments.”

Given the importance of minimizing these conflicts, she said that BLM intends to hold one public meeting specific to recreational uses in Hubbard Mesa, including recreational target shooting, sometime during January 2016. It will announce that meeting at least 15 days in advance through public notices, media releases, and/or mailings, Welch said.

Originally set aside as Naval Oil Shale Reserves Nos. 1 and 3 in the 1910s, the Roan Plateau was transferred to BLM in 1997 from the US Department of Energy with directions to lease the area for oil and gas development as soon as practicable, while protecting the plateau’s wildlife, water, and other natural resources.

The transferred lands totaled 56,238 acres and the legislation required that the 12,029 acre-area below the rim, which already contained wells, be leased within a year, BLM said.

Contact Nick Snow at

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