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Rocky Mountain Bye: New Oil and Gas Leasing Threatens Colorado’s Iconic Public Lands

 

North Fork Valley

Public lands in Colorado’s North Fork Valley, are slated to be auctioned away for fracking in December. Photo by EcoFlight.

The Trump Administration’s Bureau of Land Management is escalating its campaign to auction away our public lands for fracking, this time taking aim at some of Colorado’s most iconic Rocky Mountain landscapes and the communities that depend on them.

The latest plans calls for selling more than 236,000 acres (nearly 370 square miles) to the oil and gas industry this December. Today, the Bureau of Land Management announced its proposal and opened up a public comment period.

Without a doubt, the American public is going to weigh in and weigh in loudly. Not only do these plans threaten to auction away public lands throughout Colorado, but the sale would open the door for more air pollution, more water contamination, more climate destruction, and more community health risks.

And with oil and gas companies able to buy up this land for as little as $1.50 an acre, it’s a complete ripoff of the American public. The Trump Administration is basically forcing Americans to pay for liquidating their public resources.

See for yourself where these lands are located, check out our online interactive map >>

Here are some of the places at risk:

Colorado’s North Fork Valley

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Overlooking Colorado’s North Fork Valley.  Photo by EcoFlight.

Under the Bureau of Land Management’s plans, more than 5,600 acres of Colorado’s North Fork of the Gunnison River Valley, called the North Fork Valley, would be put on the auction block.

These include lands just north of the town of Paonia, an agricultural hub in western Colorado, and lands next to Paonia Reservoir, the source of irrigation water for much of the North Fork Valley.

What’s worse is the Bureau of Land Management’s land management plan for the region is completely outdated (adopted in 1989) and has yet to be updated to ensure the North Fork’s air, water, and communities are protected with modern safeguards.

Groups like Citizens for a Healthy Community have been working for years to defend the North Fork’s public lands and its communities from fracking. The Bureau of Land Management is barreling forward in spite of opposition from farmers, businesses, community members, local officials, and many more.

Pawnee National Grassland

15615054476_5f3aa4b40b_hNearly 1,500 acres within northeast Colorado’s Pawnee National Grassland would be put on the auction block under the Bureau of Land Management’s plans.

This beleaguered National Grassland 80 miles north of Denver has been under siege by the oil and gas industry for several years now. Fracking has industrialized this once-remote and undeveloped landscape. While this has endangered the region’s public lands and wildlife, it’s also fueled smog pollution along Colorado’s Front Range.

For several years now, WildEarth Guardians has been pushing back against the Bureau of Land Management’s plans to auction away the Pawnee National Grassland and the resistance is set to continue.

North Park

DSCN478033,887 acres of north-central Colorado’s North Park would be put on the auction block under the Bureau of Land Management’s plans.

This expansive and remote high mountain valley is surrounded by some of Colorado’s most scenic and wild mountain ranges, the Park Range, Rabbit Ears Range, Never Summer Mountains, and Medicine Bow Mountains. With the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge at its core, this valley is home to thriving populations of sage grouse, deer, elk, and other wildlife.

Sadly, industry has been steadily chipping away at North Park’s natural wonders. Fracking for oil has surged and transformed once-undeveloped, nearly pristine parts of the Valley to complete industrial zones (see for yourself some of this destruction).

The Bureau of Land Management’s latest plans call for auctioning away public lands right next to the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge, threatening this vital haven for the region’s fish and wildlife.

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The Bureau of Land Management is proposing to auction away public lands right on the boundaries of the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge.

Although we’ve challenged past attempts by the Bureau of Land Management to auction away public lands here, the agency seems to be intent on handing over every last acre of North Park to the oil and gas industry.

Dinosaur National Monument

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Dinosaur National Monument. Photo by EcoFlight.

Nearly 170,000 acres would be put on the auction block in northwest Colorado, including several thousand acres on the doorstep of Dinosaur National Monument.

The Greater Dinosaur region is facing increased threats from fracking. Last year, the Bureau of Land Management attempted to sell public lands next to the Monument outside of the town of Vernal, Utah. The move came even as the Governor of Utah, who is no fan of environmental protection, called for the agency to back down from its plans.

We challenged the Bureau of Land Management’s attack on Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. Now, it looks like we’re going to have to double down to defend the Greater Dinosaur region in Colorado.

Roan Plateau

County Road 352, Silt, Colorado, United States

Roan Plateau. Photo by EcoFlight.

Around 30,000 acres in Colorado’s Roan Plateau are slated to be auctioned off.

Located northwest of Grand Junction and near the town of Rifle, the Roan Plateau is a rugged, wild region. Although oil and gas companies have penetrated much of its flanks, large parts of the Plateau remain untouched.

For years, the Bureau of Land Management has pushed to open up as much of the Roan Plateau as possible to the oil and gas industry. Much has been lost. It was only after a major lawsuit win by environmental groups that the agency was forced to start protecting this area.

It seems like the Bureau of Land Management is now back to its old habit of sacrificing the Roan Plateau to the oil and gas industry. Given what the agency has proposed for December, it appears the Plateau is again set to become a key battleground as we defend our public lands from fracking.

A Disturbing Trend

While these amazing places in Colorado are all at risk, the Bureau of Land Management’s proposal comes on heels of numerous other plans to sacrifice our public lands for fracking, both in Colorado and throughout the American West.

Already, the Administration has proposed to auction away around 18,000 acres of public lands right next to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in southern Colorado. Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Yellowstone National Park, Petrified Forest National Park, and other amazingly iconic landscapes are now under siege.

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The Great Sand Dunes viewed from Mosca Pass. The Bureau of Land Management is proposing to auction away public lands within a mile of the National Park and Preserve. Photo by Patrick Myers, NPS.

The bottomline is that under President Trump, the Bureau of Land Management is putting everything it can on the auction block for the oil and gas industry. Regardless of the consequences, the agency is putting fracking first on our public lands.

The good news is, we’re fighting back. In May, we filed suit over a massive sell-off of public lands for fracking in Montana. And we continue to push back fiercely against every single proposal to auction lands to the oil and gas industry.

With wins in hand, including a recent court ruling overturning the sale of public lands for fracking in New Mexico, we’re hopeful this distressing trend can be kept at bay.

Our future depends on it.

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