UPDATE: Sportsmen groups including TU have submitted a formal request to BLM to withdraw leases from the February sale, pending completion of their plan revision. That will allow leasing decisions to be made on the basis of the best current information - not a 23 year old leasing plan. Check out coverage from E&E News online.
What: The BLM is offering 20 leases comprising nearly 20,000 acres in the North Fork Valley as part of the agencies February 14 lease sale. These leases are located between Hotchkiss and Paonia Reservoir, and many are along the North Fork of the Gunnison and several tributaries to the river. This creates the possibility of direct and serious impacts to the health of the watershed and the trout fisheries that it sustains.
Why it Matters: The North Fork of the Gunnison River has been the focus of a multi-year, collaborative effort to improve water quality and enhance river health so that the river is able to provide for current and future needs of the community. Poorly planned energy development could undermine these community-driven initiatives and restoration projects, to the detriment of important wild and native trout fisheries.
The Solution: The BLM’s Uncompahgre Field Office, which manages the lands proposed for leasing, is currently in the process of revising its 23 year-old management plan. In doing so, the agency is considering where and under what restrictions they are going to allow for leasing and energy development, as well as the impacts of that development on the watershed. If the BLM leases these lands now, they will be undermining their own planning efforts and leasing lands without a thorough review or the best available information. Moreover, leasing today without the benefit of an updated management plan could create a situation where future natural gas development is in conflict with direction brought forth in a new management plan.
The solution is simple: complete the resource management plan before selling new leases. By deferring these leases, the BLM will ensure that the cart doesn’t get ahead of the horse and that any future development that does occur is the result of a thoughtful, collaborative plan that balances energy development with the health of the watershed and the needs of the community.
For more information, contact: Bob Meulengracht, Colorado SFRED Coordinator, Trout Unlimited 303-514-8227, firstname.lastname@example.org