Defending the Not-Quite-Wild


What is really special about the Roan Plateau, these lands in particular, is the incredible energy density beneath it,” said Duane Zavadil, vice president of the Bill Barrett Corporation, a Denver energy company that holds drilling rights to the Roan.

The company’s plans are at the center of a battle over the future of the plateau, one that could influence the fate of thousands of acres in the high country known as the intermountain West.

…“The Roan Plateau is a microcosm of the West that up until now would not have received attention,” said Chuck Davis, a professor of environmental politics at Colorado State University. He said groups from across the political spectrum — including city dwellers with second homes, hunters, hikers and ranchers — are increasingly questioning the need for oil and gas development in places like the Roan, concluding that “second or third echelon is still pretty special.”

…Mediation in the case is scheduled for Nov. 6. The groups suing the government are asking a judge to revoke the leases. That would not necessarily put the Roan off limits to future development, but it might require a fresh assessment of the environmental risks.