179,000 acres of minerals for lease

The Bureau of Land Man--agement will offer the minerals under 179,000 acres of public land in Colorado at its lease sale next month.

About 66,000 acres are being offered in Moffat County during the competitive sale, which is scheduled for Aug. 10.

Industry nominate parcels for lease, and the bureau sells the leases four times a year.

"While energy development on Colorado's federal lands continue to play an important part in meeting our nation's energy needs, our focus is on smart planning and working with industry to use best practices to reduce environmental impacts on public and private lands," said BLM Colorado Deputy State Director Lynn Rust.

During the May lease sale, the bureau came under fire from the city of Craig for offering the minerals under a city-owned portion of land near Elkhead Reservoir. The city plans to build boat ramps and a recreation area on the property.

After officials raised concerns, the bureau delayed leasing the minerals under the city's land.

Environmental groups also raised concerns about the bureau's leasing of land in the black-footed ferret recovery project in southwestern Moffat County.

The August lease sale hasn't raised concerns locally like the May lease sale did, but environmental groups say there are still some areas being offered that they would like to see protected.

"Many of these areas are not accessible by existing roads or have any other necessary infrastructure for gas development such as access to pipelines," said Reed Morris, organizer for the Colorado Wilderness Network in Craig. "If these areas are developed, it will mean a real loss to Colorado's backcountry."

Morris said one of the most concerning areas being offered for lease is near Cold Spring Mountain in the far northwest corner of Moffat County.

The minerals being leased are under a state wildlife area that is prime habitat for big game, he said.

"That is certainly an important piece of land," he said.

Protests of any lease must be filed with the BLM by July 26.

National BLM policy requires all protests filed on nominated parcels to include the specific serial number/parcel number being protested and must be received by the BLM either by mail, hand delivery or fax by 4 p.m. at least 15 calendar days prior to the lease sale in order to be considered. If a protest is faxed, it must be sent to (303) 239-3799.

Protested parcels may still be offered but bidders are notified that no lease will be issued until the protests are resolved.

Rust said BLM will review each parcel that receives a protest before a lease will be issued.

"We take seriously the concerns of the local community and incorporate their comments into our planning process," Rust said. "As we follow our mandate to manage for multiple uses -- including recreation, conservation and energy development -- it is important that we continue to work with our neighbors for the benefit of Colorado citizens."

For more on the lease sale visit the BLM's Web site at http://www.co.blm.gov/oilandgas/leasinfo.htm#August.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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