Public lands focus of Tipton Glenwood visit

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton today expressed concern about the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to drastically reduce Colorado acreage potentially available for oil shale leasing.

Tipton, R-Cortez, who met with Garfield County commissioners and spoke to reporters, also talked about greater sage-grouse management and said he’ll be taking “a good look” at a newly introduced bill seeking to limit oil and gas development in the Thompson Divide.

Tipton has just introduced a bill requiring the Secretary of Interior to develop a strategic plan every four years for responsible development on public lands of fossil fuels including oil shale, as well as renewable energy such as wind and solar. The BLM said Friday it is proceeding with plans to cut acreage for potential oil shale leasing from 2 million acres to less than 700,000 acres in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, with Colorado’s acreage falling from 360,000 to just 26,000 acres.

Garfield County opposed the action and Tipton said he’s disappointed in it.

“We shouldn’t be closing the door on a potential resource that we may very well need,” he said.

Also Friday, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said he decided to proceed with introducing a bill to withdraw federal lands in the 220,000-acre Thompson Divide area south of Glenwood Springs from oil and gas leasing, while also letting existing leases be retired if they are donated or sold by their owners.

“It’s something that we’ll certainly take a look at and see if it’s a good middle ground,” Tipton said.

A coalition has been working to prevent drilling in the area.

During Tipton’s visit, Garfield officials detailed for him the county’s recently completed greater sage-grouse management proposal. It identifies 15,525 acres as suitable habitat for the bird in the county, just 7 percent of that identified by a map being used by the BLM. The county plan also proposes mandatory protective measures on public lands and incentive-based ones on private lands.
Tipton applauded the approach and said it’s important to use science in managing the sage-grouse.

On Saturday, speaking at a Club 20 meeting in Grand Junction, he called for a state-based solution to address the sage-grouse “rather than a one-size-fits-all Washington solution.”

The BLM is trying to keep the sage-grouse off the endangered species list, but has drawn criticism at local levels for considering blanket, national measures based on recommendations from a team of experts.

Also Saturday, Gov. John Hickenlooper told Club 20 a sage-grouse panel’s approach shouldn’t take precedence over a consensus-based one such as that being used in Colorado and involving people at the local, state and federal levels.


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