Sportsmen’s group labels gas drilling a threat to Roan

A sportsmen’s coalition is calling the Roan Plateau one of 10 western public landscapes where hunting and fishing are imperiled by energy development.

A new report by Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development says last year’s oil and gas leasing on the Roan Plateau, northwest of Rifle, threatens deer and elk habitat and populations of Colorado River cutthroat trout.

Steve Torbit of the National Wildlife Federation said in a conference call this week that mule deer are jeopardized by simultaneous development of their winter and summer ranges in the Roan Plateau area.

Brad Powell of Trout Unlimited said even small changes in water quality could decrease Colorado River cutthroat trout.

John Trammel, of the Grand Valley Anglers chapter of Trout Unlimited, is quoted in the report as saying, “It would be a serious mistake to jeopardize the irreplaceable values of native fish on the Roan by drilling in their watersheds.”

Last year, the Bureau of Land Management leased oil and gas development rights to some 55,000 acres on the plateau top and surrounding lands. Conservation groups sued, and negotiations are ongoing in the case. A judge ordered that a settlement conference take place Nov. 6.

The report says any settlement must include adequate protections for wildlife during drilling-related activities.

BLM spokesman Steven Hall said the management plan for protecting the plateau during drilling is “very aggressive,” limiting surface disturbance to 1 percent of the plateau top at any one time.

Earlier this year, Bill Barrett Corp. bought a 90 percent interest in the leases on the plateau top from Vantage Energy. It since has said it has identified 3,200 potential well locations there. That’s more than 15 times the number the BLM projected would be drilled over 20 years when it analyzed possible impacts on the plateau top.

However, Barrett said in a court filing its well projection referred to how many wells would be needed to develop an estimated 4 trillion cubic feet of underlying gas reserves over a period that would be likely to extend several decades beyond the BLM’s 20-year planning window.

If wells are proposed beyond the projections of the current plan, the BLM may be required by federal law to amend that plan, Barrett said.

The company also has said drilling multiple wells from a single pad would reduce the impacts of drilling on the plateau top.


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