We were encouraged to learn that Connie Clementson, BLM's Tres Rios Field Office (TRFO) Manager, recently committed to putting a Master Leasing Plan back on the table for southwest Colorado. In a meeting with La Plata County officials as reported in the Cortez Journal and the Pine River Times, Clementson said, "We are wishing to move forward with some sort of master leasing plan (MLP)."
If done right, an MLP allows for an in-depth review before issuing new oil and gas leases and stipulations, and leases could be deferred in areas within the MLP boundaries at least until the review is complete.
The current plan allows oil and gas leasing on more than 90 percent of some 820,000 acres managed by the BLM. (This includes almost 320,000 acres where BLM holds the mineral estate, but does not hold the surface property. An egregious example is a 2,500-acre easement purchased to protect wildlife habitat that would be opened to drilling.)
The plan fails to provide meaningful protections for some of the most essential elements of our region's economy and quality of life: water, air, health of local residents, wildlife habitat, and well-appreciated rural character. This is not the type of balanced resource management that the BLM purports to uphold.
Despite our dissatisfaction with the BLM's Tres Rios Resource Management Plan, we believe an MLP would be a step in the right direction and await further information about the boundaries for the MLP process.
Shelley Silbert, executive director
Great Old Broads for Wilderness