Colorado Department of Natural Resources protests BLM’s Uncompahgre plan

The state's department of natural resources is concerned that the Greater Sage Grouse is one of several native wildlife species whose habitat would be impacted by BLM sales of public land for gas and oil exploration.
Jerret Raffety / AP

Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources, an agency led by former Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, has sent a formal letter of protest to the federal Bureau of Land Management regarding the agency’s final Uncompahgre Field Office Resource Management Plan, which covers hundreds of thousands of acres of federal land in Mesa, Delta, Montrose, Gunnison, Ouray and San Miguel counties. 

In the protest letter, the state focused on the Uncompahgre plan’s potential impact on big game habitat and wildlife corridors as well as protection of the Gunnison sage grouse, a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The letter requests the BLM incorporate its own guidance on protecting important wildlife corridors and include those protections in the Uncompahgre plan, as it has done in other Colorado field office plans.

The letter also expresses the state’s concern that the Uncompahgre plan does not adequately protect fragile populations and critical habitat for the Gunnison sage grouse, and needs to do more, including habitat restoration and prescriptive stipulations, to sustain and restore the federally listed threatened species.

The current Uncompahgre plan, which conservation groups like the Center for Biological Diversity say is a giveaway to fossil fuel industries, allocates 872,000 acres to oil and gas, and 371,000 acres to coal development.

Finally, the letter raises questions about the lack of time cooperating agencies had to evaluate the final plan, which the department said diverged significantly from earlier alternatives considered at the field office level. Stakeholders were given 30 days to review and comment on the 3,700-page plan.

The state of Colorado will have until Aug. 28 to conduct a Consistency Review of the Uncompahgre plan to ensure it is consistent with state policy.

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