New BLM plan shows promise for land protection

One of the vistas in the BLM Kremmling Field Office jurisdiction

BLM

There is some positive news coming out of northern Colorado this week – the Bureau of Land Management is committing to keeping critical wildlands and wildlife habitat off-limits to oil and gas drilling. And even though it’s a mouthful, the Kremmling Field Office Proposed Resource Management Plan/Final Environmental Impact Statement, is an important step towards better land protection in the West.

The new plan – which isn’t final yet, but will be soon – keeps oil and gas drilling away from elk and mule deer habitat, as well protecting important nesting areas for greater sage grouse.  It does this by using a Master Leasing Plan – a holistic look at all of the resources in an area, whether it is wildlife habitat, important watersheds, recreation opportunities, or fossil fuels.

This is one of the first Master Leasing Plans to be introduced, and even though it isn’t final yet, represents a huge shift in how the BLM manages our public lands. Previously, the BLM would give higher priority to fossil fuel development – opening millions of acres of wildlands to drilling and mining (and the roads, pipelines and electric lines that come with them).  It might not seem like a big deal, but it is a huge step forward for an agency that just a few years ago was issuing oil and gas leases on the doorstep of Arches National Park without any considerations for the environment.

Hopefully this will be the start of more Master Leasing Plans that will protect like Arches National Park and Chaco Canyon,  that are too wild to drill.

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