Meetings kick off $3.2 million review of Roan plan

SILT — Two open houses this week are helping the Bureau of Land Management launch a multi-million-dollar revisiting of a plan that led to the 2008 leasing of 55,000 acres for oil and gas development on the Roan Plateau west of Rifle.

The agency held what it calls a public scoping session in Silt Wednesday as it undertakes revision of its Roan management plan, following a federal judge’s ruling last year that the existing plan was deficient.

“We’re hoping that the Roan can get protected this time,” Mike Freeman, one of the attorneys for conservation groups in their lawsuit, said at Wednesday’s open house.

The BLM will hold a second Roan meeting today from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Clarion Inn, 755 Horizon Drive in Grand Junction.

BLM spokesman David Boyd said the revised study is expected to cost $3.2 million over two and a half years.

As a result of Judge Marcia Krieger’s ruling, a key part of the study will involve analyzing a so-called community alternative under which drilling rigs would be kept off federal land on the relatively pristine plateau top through the use of directional drilling from surrounding areas.

However, the directional-drilling concept is complicated by the fact that locating rigs along the base of the plateau would have impacts as well.

While a lot of people recognize the values on the plateau top, “there’s also a realization that there’s other values at the foot of the plateau as well,” said Karl Mendonca, associate manager of the BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office.

Freeman agreed, saying it’s important that big-game winter habitat areas on the base also not be drilled. But BLM official Brian Hopkins said it may be hard to find other locations on the base that aren’t highly visible, wouldn’t impact areas without roads, and wouldn’t harm other wildlife such as peregrine falcons, among other concerns.

Freeman said conservationists want the BLM to also consider having the top drilled from adjacent private lands. Alternatively, he said, much of the top wouldn’t have to be leased at all; Krieger found that the agency was required to lease only a “meaningful” part of the top.

Bill Barrett Corp. continues to hold the leases atop the plateau. Krieger said in her ruling that the BLM may find after further analysis that the leasing was warranted.

BBC has appealed her ruling that more analysis is needed.


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