BLM Reverses Plans for Colorado Leases Following TRCP Protest

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BLM Reverses Plans for Colorado Leases Following TRCP Protest

5/6/08

BLM abandons leasing plans in Rio Grande National Forest; northern Colorado leases still slated for sale on May 8

WASHINGTON – In response to a blistering wave of criticism and close to 100 formal protests, including one filed by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the Bureau of Land Management announced on Friday its decision to withdraw 84 parcels located in the Rio Grande National Forest from its May 8 lease sale. The approximately 144,000 acres in Colorado's San Luis Valley encompass the headwaters and numerous tributaries of the Rio Grande; leasing these areas could jeopardize Rio Grande cutthroat trout populations and would violate the terms of a multi-agency conservation agreement.

Numerous citizens groups and conservation groups, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar and Rep. John Salazar sharply criticized the proposed leases.

"Sportsmen, local representatives and citizens deserve our thanks for focusing attention on the BLM's mistake," said TRCP Energy Initiative Manager Steve Belinda. "Without a comprehensive strategy to moderate the effects of energy development, we run the risk of irreversibly altering these valuable public lands, along with the habitat they provide fish and wildlife populations and the outdoor opportunities they offer hunters and anglers."

An additional 15,000-plus acres protested by the TRCP and others still are scheduled for lease on May 8. Located in northern Colorado, these areas encompass the headwaters of the Colorado River, sage grouse breeding grounds, big-game winter range and migration routes, and Colorado River cutthroat trout habitat. Both the BLM and the Colorado Division of Wildlife have designated the Colorado River cutthroat trout a "species of concern" or "sensitive species."

"Had the BLM sold the leases proposed in the Rio Grande National Forest, the agency would have broken a conservation agreement signed by groups including the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service. The BLM's determination in leasing Colorado River cutthroat trout habitat violates a similar agreement between the agencies regarding that species," said Dwayne Meadows, a TRCP field representative. "I fail to see the difference between these two commitments and can only ask how the BLM's inconsistent management style is serving our natural resources and citizens who enjoy them.

"The time to ensure that our public lands are managed responsibly is now, before these areas are leased to the energy industry and options for balanced management dwindle," continued Meadows. "The BLM's decision to proceed in leasing these parcels – a decision that is based on dismally outdated planning documents and that ignores recent scientific studies about the effects of energy development on species such as mule deer and sage grouse – breaches the requirement that the agency coordinate its activities with Colorado agencies like the Division of Wildlife."

The TRCP believes that to better balance the concerns of fish and wildlife in the face of accelerating energy development, federal land management agencies must follow the conservation tenets outlined in the FACTS for Fish and Wildlife.

Media Contact:
Dwayne Meadows, 307-760-6802, dmeadows@trcp.org
 

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