Judge Puts Colorado’s Roan Drilling on Hold

Roan Plateau, Colorado. Photo by Jane Pargiter, EcoFlight.

Oil and natural gas leases may have been issued for western Colorado wild lands, but there’s still hope the courts will rule in favor of the biologically diverse Roan Plateau.

Wilderness advocates across the country were outraged this summer when the Bureau of Land Management ignored the public's wishes and sold oil and natural gas leases on the last 55,000 acres of important wildlife habitat and wilderness quality lands on western Colorado’s Roan Plateau. One of the most biologically diverse areas in western Colorado, the Roan is an island of wildness surrounded by lands already developed by oil and natural gas companies.

More than 13,000 people responded to a Wilderness Society Wild Alert urging members to write letters to protest the leases. Those written protests stalled the BLM for a while, but the agency quickly resolved the protests and issued the leases anyway.

Now, hope for saving the Roan from energy development damage rests in court, where The Wilderness Society and other defenders have filed suit challenging the BLM’s management plan and gas leasing.

On Oct. 15, a federal district judge directed that no ground-disturbing activities will occur at Roan Plateau before June 2009, by which time she expects to rule on our suit.

If energy companies are allowed to pierce the tranquility of the Roan and drill there, our protests have at least forced the BLM to consider less destructive, less intrusive ways to develop the resources hidden under the plateau.

The ideas they've come up with are untested, and we believe trying out new theories in a biologically sensitive area, such as Roan, would be irresponsible, but nonetheless, we did force the agency to start thinking about safer ways.