Colorado BLM presses ahead with finalizing new and improved plan for the Roan Plateau

Colorado's Roan Plateau

Scott Braden / BLM

The Bureau of Land Management is heading towards the finish line with a new and improved management plan for western Colorado’s Roan Plateau that does a better job protecting wilderness and wildlife from oil and gas drilling.

Long the subject of controversy over oil and gas development, there was new hope for the Roan Plateau in 2014 when conservation and sportsmen’s groups settled a lawsuit with the oil and gas industry to balance conservation and energy development on the Roan. Since the settlement was reached, the BLM has been working on a new management plan for the Roan, including an alternative that incorporates the agreed-upon measures. The BLM recently released a proposed plan, which should be finalized later this summer.

Incorporating the terms of the settlement agreement, the BLM’s proposed plan will cancel 16 of 18 oil and gas leases atop the plateau and will commit to not re-lease those lands under the plan. More than 90% of the public land on top of the plateau will be protected from surface disturbance like new well pads or drilling infrastructure. The BLM’s proposed plan will also designate areas for conservation, such as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, to protect the important fish and wildlife resources on the Roan Plateau.

Towering 3,000 feet above the Colorado River, the Roan Plateau is a backcountry haven for big game, genetically pure Colorado River cutthroat trout and a magnet for outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts, hunters and anglers. There are also bountiful wilderness-quality lands on the Roan Plateau, and the BLM has so far found that 27,000 acres of public land on the Roan meet the agency’s criteria for lands with wilderness characteristics. Unfortunately, the BLM is not protecting any of those lands specifically for their wilderness qualities in the new plan, but that doesn’t mean the BLM can’t protect these lands in the future. We hope to see the BLM do a better job managing all of the important resources of the Roan, including wilderness, going forward.

We’re glad to see the BLM supporting the settlement approach to managing oil and gas development on the Roan Plateau, providing a more balanced plan. We hope to see the plan finalized in the near future and look forward to seeing the BLM fulfill its responsibilities to protect the many resources of the Roan Plateau in the coming years.