No consensus reached on Roan Plateau plan

City, county mull support for multiple use

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Craig City Council came no closer to taking a position on a development plan for the Roan Plateau. But the Moffat County commissioners seemed to reach a consensus supporting multiple uses, including natural gas drilling, on the top of the plateau.

The local governments met Tuesday evening to discuss the positions on the Roan Plateau, a 73,000-acre plateau northwest of Rifle.

Earlier in the day, the commissioners had informally decided to send the Bureau of Land Management a letter stating the county's support for multiple use of public lands, including the environmentally responsible development of energy. The BLM is accepting comments about the Roan Plateau management plan until April 11.

Former Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos, now a public relations representative for Julander Energy of Denver, initiated the discussions several weeks ago when she requested that the county and city comment about the plan in support of multiple use.

Moffat County Natural Resources Director Jeff Comstock said the BLM's decision about the Roan Plateau could set a precedent for developing sensitive areas in Moffat County, such as Vermillion Basin, a residents' proposed wilderness area, which he described as a "sister project" to the Roan Plateau.

"It'll set the precedent on how gas is developed in sensitive areas across the West," Comstock said.

Commissioner Tom Gray said one Garfield County commissioner contacted Moffat County requesting the county's comments in support of multiple use. Moffat County contacted the Rio Blanco County commissioners, who indicated they supported multiple use.

Ninety percent of the Roan Plateau is in Garfield County, with the remainder in Rio Blanco County. It is an area rich with natural gas reserves, but it also is renowned for its ecological diversity.

"Who asked the City Council to comment? It was from a lobbyist, not the city councils in that area," Councilor Bill Johnston said. "Uninvited, here's our opinion, I think I got a problem with that."

Glenwood Springs, Silt, Carbondale and New Castle have adopted resolutions opposing gas development on top of the plateau. Rifle and Parachute are collecting public comment about the proposed management plans. They likely won't comment until after April 11, a privilege their status as cooperating agencies affords them.

Councilor Tom Gilchrist suggested that the city write comments citing its support of multiple use, but without naming any locations or stating a position about the Roan Plateau. Other councilors supported Gilchrist's idea.

Craig City Council members did not comment about the resource management plan that the BLM Little Snake Field Office is developing. The office manages most of Moffat County's public land, and the plan will govern the land's management for the next 15 to 20 years.

Gray urged the city to become involved in the local resource management plan process.

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