Another side of BLM management plans for northwest Colorado

There’s no better recent example of the “win/lose” school of thought that permeates current political and policy discussions than rhetoric over the revised Resource Management Plan released for comment by the Bureau of Land Management. The RMP would revise guidelines for multiple uses on more than 500,000 acres of federal land in northwest Colorado administered by the Colorado River Valley Field Office in Silt.

The draft has drawn predictable fire from the usual suspects, including Craig Meis and his fellow Mesa County commissioners, Garfield County commissioners and the western Colorado chapter of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. Less predictable, and therefore more disappointing, was the response on the editorial pages of this very newspaper.

Based on those comments and writings, you’d think the world as we know it will come to an end if the draft management plan is adopted.

“There is no bigger thing to impact our economic development in northwest Colorado” than the proposed draft, Meis warned The Daily Sentinel editorial board. Western Slope COGA representative David Ludlam, in a letter to the editor, wasted no time in drawing a shaky line between a local, staff-level draft plan, election politics and the Obama administration decision to reject the proposed Keystone Pipeline. Ditto the opening lines of the Sentinel’s editorial.

You’d think the energy industry was the only important economic driver utilizing federal lands in our part of the state, that it trumps any appropriate balance allowing continued extraction of natural gas, oil and coal while accommodating the multimillion-dollar economic impacts of hunting and fishing, outdoor recreation and agriculture that also rely on access to public acreage and whose interests are sometimes negatively impacted by energy extraction.

There’s no mention of any of that sort of necessary balance anywhere in the recent rhetorical attacks on the BLM draft.

That’s regrettable but not at all surprising. We live in a time when these sorts of issues are colored either black or white.

If you’re at all concerned about social or economic or environmental impacts, you can’t possibly care about costs or jobs or energy security. Conversely, if you support energy extraction in any form, you must not care about the environment or future generations.

Those sorts of lines, whether drawn in the dirt or in policy discussions or on editorial pages, do little to foster solutions but much to confuse the debate.

Those with long memories acknowledge and plan for the peaks and valleys that come with dependence on extractive industries. Others with a shorter frame of reference, and some who should know better, expect the peaks should be the new “normal” and think anything less is an indication of too many “roadblocks.” Anything less than carte blanche is unacceptable.

The hard lessons of the bust in the early 1980s prompted the local business community to begin a concerted and, for a time, very successful effort to diversify our local economy, to make certain we didn’t have all our economic eggs in one basket. The heady times in the early part of the last decade prompted many in business and politics to order their eggs “over easy” and place less emphasis on the harder tasks associated with diversification and economic balance.

When it’s convenient, we advocate unhindered resource development in the name of energy security. It’s harder to accept that worldwide market forces play a bigger role than regulation in any lack of that security, especially given recent reports that our nation’s biggest exports are the very energy resources we think we need to be independent of foreign suppliers.

It comes as no surprise that a lengthy federal document might need some revision. That’s why it’s labeled a draft and why the BLM has responded twice to requests for extra time. The new deadline for public comment is now Feb. 29.

It’s appropriate to take the time necessary to get the plan right. It’s also interesting to see folks who usually complain about environmental group tactics now also advocating delays.

But consistency is often a casualty in these sorts of discussions where conventional wisdom seems to necessitate that one side has to lose in order for the other side to win.

It’ll come as a surprise to some, including BLM managers, that Jim Spehar is siding with the agency in matters of natural resource extraction. Your comments are welcome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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Fake letter headline is all the Tea Party’s fault

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