BLM to look at North Fork drilling proposal

The Bureau of Land Management has agreed to formally consider a community proposal for management of oil and gas development in the North Fork Valley.

The agency’s Uncompahgre Field Office said this week it will include the proposal from Citizens for a Healthy Community, the Western Slope Conservation Center and others in its draft resource management plan. Its final plan will provide management direction for BLM land and mineral management in Delta, Gunnison, Mesa, Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel counties.

The North Fork proposal was developed after the BLM announced plans to lease some 30,000 acres in and around the North Fork Valley.

The agency since has deferred that leasing to allow for further analysis. Meanwhile, groups and individuals worried about the leasing drew up what they call the North Fork Alternative Plan.

It seeks to direct oil and gas development in a way that protects agriculture, wildlife, watersheds and other aspects of the valley’s culture and economy. It would keep drilling away from schools and communities, and establish management zones, with some areas off-limits to leasing, others containing prohibitions on surface disturbance for oil and gas development, and yet others subject to controls on surface use and required best-management practices.

The BLM’s decision means it will evaluate the proposal as a possible option in its draft plan. Its final plan can make use of parts or all of any of the range of alternatives it looks at in the draft plan.

“The BLM remains committed to an open, public planning process that examines a full range of alternatives for managing the public’s land,” said Jerry Strahan, acting Uncompahgre field manager.

Citizens for a Healthy Community said in a mass e-mail Friday, “Thank you to the many residents, organizations and elected officials who have shown support for the North Fork Alternative Plan. Because of you, the BLM is taking this into serious consideration.”

The BLM hopes to release its draft plan next year.


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