Can’t we e-mail ideas about environment?
Vail, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” An environmental advocate is questioning why commenting on the future of part of the Roan Plateau must by done with the lick of a stamp rather than the click of a mouse.
People have until Friday to submit their thoughts on how best to manage about 21,000 acres of the plateau, northwest of Rifle. Pete Kolbenschlag, who is part of the Save Roan Plateau campaign, wrote to the agency’s Colorado director, Sally Wisely, last week to ask why those comments can’t be submitted by e-mail or other electronic means.
“BLM’s failure to do so … seems little more than an attempt to discourage public involvement,” he wrote.
The land bureau typically also allows comments on land management plans to be submitted by e-mail, fax or over the Internet. It did so in taking public input on its draft management plan for the Roan Plateau, for which it received some 75,000 comments, most of them electronically.
In June, the agency issued its decision for how to manage more than 50,000 acres on the plateau. That decision has been controversial because it allows oil and gas drilling on the plateau top. Conservationists and local communities wanted drill rigs banned on top to protect wildlife, watersheds, scenery and other values.
While making that decision, the land bureau held off on deciding how to manage 21,000 acres deemed to be “areas of critical environmental concern.” It agreed with a protest contending its draft Roan plan didn’t contain enough detail about these areas, and decided to provide 60 days for additional comment.
Kolbenschlag says the agency’s requirement that all comments be mailed or hand-delivered to its Glenwood office in writing appears to violate federal law aimed at eliminating government paperwork. But David Boyd, spokesman for the agency’s Glenwood office, said Tuesday that the requirement was the most efficient way to handle the comments.
Boyd said the agency received thousands of comments about areas of critical environmental concern during the first comment period, so it’s not as if the public hasn’t weighed in on the issue. He said the last he heard, fewer than 100 comments had been submitted in the supplemental period.
The comment process aside, Kolbenschlag said the bigger issue is making sure that critical areas are adequately protected.
He believes those areas aren’t large enough. Boyd notes that the acreage receiving that designation is almost twice what was included in the draft plan, after 9,000 acres were added below the plateau rim.