Group: Records show Garfield ties to industry on sage-grouse

A watchdog group says records show a cozy relationship among Garfield County, the oil and gas industry and its consultants on the issue of greater sage-grouse.

The Western Values Project says it obtained emails and other records through a state public-records request and learned that a consultant being used by the county also was involved with Chevron on the same issue. It said the records also showed the county and its consultants met with energy company Encana at least twice over the past two years, including once to brief the company on the alternative sage-grouse management plan developed by the county, just two days after county commissioners approved the plan.

The Bureau of Land Management has been considering measures to protect the greater sage-grouse. Garfield County worries about the impacts the measures would have on oil and gas and other activities and says its own mapping shows far less acreage in the county requires sage-grouse protections than is indicated by maps the BLM is using.

“Real solutions must involve local governments working constructively with BLM, rather than hiring industry consultants to attack the agency’s science. The conflict of interest we found in Garfield County is profound and ultimately taxpayers deserve more,” Western Values Project director Ross Lane said in a prepared statement.

The county has spent more than $200,000 on consultants for its efforts. One of them, Eric Petterson, works for URS Corp., which helped Chevron as it filed an objection in August to a revised sage-grouse habitat map the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission was considering adopting. Petterson provided copies of the company’s filings to the county and also billed the county for phone calls with “industry consultants,” the records show.

The Western Values Project also noted, as other critics have, that Rob Roy Ramey, the biologist contracted by the county, has represented the energy industry on the sage-grouse issue.

Garfield Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said Tuesday that Lane is “overreaching” in his criticism. Jankovsky noted that Gov. John Hickenlooper also has concerns over the BLM’s proposal.


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