Trump’s “energy dominance” push changing plans for 3 million acres of Colorado land, local stewards say |

Trump’s “energy dominance” push changing plans for 3 million acres of Colorado land, local stewards say

State and local agencies -- and more recently, Gov. Jared Polis -- prioritized conservation during years of public input and discussion. Now those objectives are in jeopardy.

Jason Blevins, Colorado Sun
Thousands of lodgepole pine trees in the South San Juan Wilderness on Piedra Pass show the damage done in Colorado's forests by pine beetles. The wilderness area is a backdrop to the Rio Grande National Forest, where 600,000 acres of trees have been ravaged by spruce beetles. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Federal land managers are about to close the door on public input to decade-long resource management plans for sweeping swaths of public land in Colorado that now reflect the Trump Administration’s focus on boosting domestic energy production. 

That focus conflicts with new state laws aimed at protecting wildlife and improving air quality, which has united local and state leaders with conservation groups already deep in the fight against the administration’s growing list of scaled back environmental regulations, including methane emissionswater-quality standards and endangered-species protections.

“What we are seeing is the full effect — in proposed actions — of the 2016 election at the local level,” Ouray County Commissioner Ben Tisdel said.

The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management over the last several years have held hundreds of meetings, harvested thousands of comments and filled many more thousands of pages with research as the agencies created long-term Resource Management Plans — or RMPs — for more than 3 million acres of BLM lands in Eastern Colorado and the Uncompahgre Plateau and in the Rio Grande National Forest. That doesn’t include more than 4 million acres of underground mineral rights that allow for oil and gas drilling. 

The Trump-driven shift toward more oil and gas development on public lands worries Colorado politicians and conservation groups that are steering the state toward increased protections. Agencies within the same department seem in conflict. Long-studied plans are changing between between draft and final reports, with proposed protections fading away and opportunities for extraction growing.  

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

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