Roan stays open to recreation |

Roan stays open to recreation

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Post Independent file photoChris Hunt of Trout Unlimited releases a brook trout that he caught in the calm waters of East Fork of Parachute Creek, not far above where the creek plunges over a 200-foot waterfall on the Roan Plateau.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” An upcoming lease sale of 55,200 acres on the Roan Plateau for possible oil and gas development will not have any impact on fishing and hunting access in the area, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

The lease sale has been slated to occur on Aug. 14, but a recently filed lawsuit may delay it for some time. But whatever happens in the wake of that legal battle, anglers’ and hunters’ access to the area, north of Rifle in western Colorado, will not be affected, BLM spokesman Steven Hall said.

“We have oil and gas developments that co-exist with other uses throughout the West,” Hall said. “To try to put it real bluntly, there would not be any restriction or any negative impact on the ability to access the Roan Plateau for recreation. Nothing about leasing impacts that.”

Randy Hampton, a spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, said hunting and fishing regulations on federal lands in Colorado is the domain of the state agency. He said companies that drill on federal leases cannot prohibit hunting.

“The public still has the right to be there, they cannot close the area,” Hampton said. “It is still public land. In other places on federal land, (we’ve) had oil and gas workers tell hunters, ‘You can’t hunt here because we have this drill rig here.’ Not true.”

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Hampton said while hunters often complain that drilling in wildlife areas lessens their experience in the wild, oil and gas operations can actually help increase access for hunters in areas of natural gas development. However, that has also increased the potential for poaching, he said.

Hall said there may be some impacts for hunting opportunities in the Roan because of habitat disturbance from development and the influx of additional people on top of the Roan Plateau. He added that impact to fisheries should be “absolutely minimal,” he said.

Protections for the Roan include requiring that development of the area to be phased over time with one operator working on the ground to limit disturbance to 1 percent of federal land at any time, Hall said. Another protection is that more than half of the acreage in the Roan Plateau has a no-surface occupancy stipulation, which means that oil and gas companies will have to drill from other areas to reach the natural gas.

That will reduce surface disturbances, according to the BLM.

“I think there might be a misperception out there that if you have oil and gas development on the Roan Plateau, the immediate result is huge impacts or even devastation to the natural world. That is simply not the case,” Hall said.

However, several environmental groups disagree with that view. They have filed a lawsuit that seeks to block the Aug. 14 lease sale and to set aside the BLM’s plan for the area, arguing that the BLM violated federal law by failing to consider the long-term environmental impacts its management plan could have on the area.

The groups also allege that the agency failed to consider a reasonable “range of alternative approaches” for oil and gas development in the Roan Plateau Planning Area.

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