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Modified land management plan in western Colorado approved

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Posted at 4:08 PM, Apr 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-12 18:08:30-04

GRAND JUNCTION (AP) — The Bureau of Land Management has approved a modified resource management plan for its Uncompahgre field office that would govern oil and gas leasing, recreation, livestock grazing and other types of land uses on federal land in western Colorado.

The approved plan governs land uses on about 1,056 square miles (2,735 square kilometers) of federal lands and about 1,563 square miles (4,048 square kilometers) of federal mineral estate in parts of Montrose, Delta, Gunnison, Ouray, San Miguel and Mesa counties, the Daily Sentinel reported.

Democratic Gov. Jared Polis requested some changes to the original plan proposed last year, including more environmental protections and restrictions to oil and gas leasing and development.

“It provides for a balanced combination of goals, objectives, allowable uses and management actions,” an agency notice said, adding that the governor’s modifications ensure the suitability of big game winter range, migration and production and enhances protections for sage grouse, a threatened species.

State Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Dan Gibbs supported the changes noting that the plan allows state wildlife managers the opportunity to provide input into “mitigating the impacts of oil and gas development on sensitive habitat for elk, mule deer and bighorn sheep.”

The agency received 13 protests against the proposal from multiple groups including Gunnison, Ouray and San Miguel counties, the town of Paonia and citizen and conservation groups, officials said.

“We are disappointed the BLM is moving forward with a plan that clearly disrespects the wishes of the North Fork community, ignores a decade’s worth of community input and endangers our economic future and our public lands and waters — along with the farms, ranches, vineyards and recreation businesses that depend on them,” said Patrick Dooling, executive director of the Paonia-based Western Slope Conservation Center.

Western Energy Alliance oil and gas trade association President Kathleen Sgamma argued the law allows multiple land uses, including oil and natural gas development and the modified plan already enhanced protections and restrictions for oil and gas activities.