Wilderness protection missing in BLM plans for Colorado

Dolores River Canyon, in the Tres Rios planning area.

Soren Jespersen

New management plans will determine the fate of Colorado’s public lands, but conservation is taking a back seat to oil and gas drilling.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is finalizing three management plans for Colorado, covering a total of 1.5 million acres of public land altogether. In these plans, the BLM is proposing to open almost all of the public lands under consideration to oil and gas leasing, protecting only a small fraction of these wild places for us to enjoy and for future generations.

TAKE ACTION: Ask the BLM to balance wilderness protection with energy development in Colorado.

The three management plans focus on the Colorado River Valley, Kremmling and Tres Rios areas, respectively. These places include spectacular and untouched landscapes ranging from high deserts to alpine meadows. They provide excellent opportunities for recreation and contribute to the health of the Colorado economy.

The Resource Management Plans nearing completion in these three BLM Field offices are long-term roadmaps that decide how these lands will be managed for multiple uses for the next 20 years.

The BLM is ignoring an executive policy that promotes balanced management of public lands

Under a policy recently introduced by the Department of Interior, the BLM is charged to identify and consider managing wilderness-quality lands for conservation purposes by focusing on naturalness, opportunities for quiet recreation and other values. Management to protect lands with wilderness characteristics is a unique approach that upholds wilderness qualities and ensures public lands users can engage the sights and sounds of nature.

Unfortunately, the BLM in Colorado is ignoring this new policy. The proposed plans abandon key opportunities to create balanced management strategies. They fail to reflect the value that Coloradans place on preserving wild lands for recreation and conservation.

In the Kremmling plan, for example, more than 90 percent of the land would be open to oil and gas leasing while less than 1 percent would be managed for conservation. A more balanced land approach would also include protections in these areas that retain natural values. The Kremmling lands are home to big game species, hiking and snowshoeing destinations, and other outstanding wild land experiences.

Now is the time to start protecting Colorado’s outstanding landscapes

The BLM has many tools to ensure our natural resources are managed responsibly. These new management plans could set a model for many of the other Colorado management plans currently in the works. The BLM should listen to the public and protect these public lands for future generations.

Our wild places and our wildlife should be put on equal ground with development; allowing us and our future generations to get out and experience Colorado’s remaining wild places. We call on the BLM to preserve wild spaces in the Kremmling, Colorado River Valley and Tres Rios management plans.

Send a letter to the BLM asking the agency to protect wilderness in the Colorado land management plans.