Feds propose new plan to manage millions of acres in Colorado


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A federal management plan available for public comment covers the eastern half of the state. - COURTESY BLM
  • Courtesy BLM
  • A federal management plan available for public comment covers the eastern half of the state.
A federal agency that oversees issues like drilling minerals and livestock grazing on virtually the entire eastern half of Colorado has opened a public comment period for its Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan.

The Bureau of Land Management has planned seven public meetings, including one in Colorado Springs at 5:30 p.m. on July 22 at Westside Community Center, 1628 W. Bijou St.

Go to this site to access all the reports associated with the BLM's preferred alternative, which will allow development of "energy and natural resources and increasing access to minerals, renewable energy, livestock grazing, right-of-way development, and recreation," according to a news release.

In a sentence, the BLM describes the impact of its preferred alternative like this:

Overall, the Preferred Alternative would increase access to public
lands for recreational and hunting and fishing uses and by increasing areas available for rights-of-way and mineral development. In addition, it would decrease regulatory burden and improve management efficiencies by minimizing right-of-way avoidance areas and fluid mineral restrictions.
Wildlife need conservation efforts to preserve their habitat. - BLM PHOTO BY BOB WICK
  • BLM photo by Bob Wick
  • Wildlife need conservation efforts to preserve their habitat.
Take note of that phrase, "decrease regulatory burden."

In a news release, Wild Connections, an environmental watchdog group, expresses suspicion that the BLM won't be looking out for the best interest of those who can't speak for themselves, like wildlife that rely on natural settings to live and thrive.

"The low-elevation lands affected by this resource management plan are particularly important as wildlife habitat since they form crucial links in the mountains-to-plains ecology of our region, through which many of our species migrate annually," Wild Connections president Jim Lockhart said in a release. "Protecting this network of wild areas therefore must be given the highest planning priority.”

  • Photo by BLM
From Wild Connections' news release:

The BLM’s preferred alternative (Alternative D) fails to conserve the area’s wildest lands and natural resources. For example, BLM has identified 190,000 acres of wilderness-quality lands (LWCs) in the planning area. Yet, BLM only includes 1,300 acres of lands with wilderness character, and does not include appropriate management to protect their wild values, making them vulnerable to fragmentation and development. Additionally, BLM reduces other conservation management across the planning area, such as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs). The preferred alternative would reduce existing ACEC designations by more than 20,000 acres, even while BLM found that more than 100,000 acres of public land meet the agency’s criteria for designation – meaning they have significant natural resource values that are at risk without protective management.

“If we leave these BLM public lands unprotected, we risk losing critical fish and wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, and local wild and scenic areas, along with the sustainable tourism dollars and economic benefits that accompany these values,” Aaron and Brenda Cromer, owners of Bighorn Sheep RV Park, said in the release.

Similar planning initiatives envelop millions of acres of land in Oregon, Montana and Alaska.
Conservationists fear the draft plan will lead to opening federal lands to additional mineral mining and other issues, such as over-grazing.

The BLM's plan will replace two prior plans and bring new types of management to 658,200 surface acres and 3.3 million acres of mineral estate in 37 counties in eastern Colorado.

Besides the Colorado Springs meeting, feedback will be sought during these meetings, all of which begin at 5:30 p.m.:

• July 8, in Salida at the SteamPlant Event Center, 220 West Sackett Avenue
• July 9 in Cañon City at The Abbey, 3011 East Highway 50
• July 11 in Fairplay at the Foss Smith Multipurpose Room, 640 Hathaway Street.
• July 15: Walsenburg at the Washington School, 201 East 5th Street
• July 18: Golden at the Denver Marriott West, 1717 Denver West Boulevard
• July 23: Greeley at the Greeley Recreation Center, 651 10th Avenue

Citizens can comment on the management plan by going here. Deadline is September 20.


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