Court: No drilling on Roan Plateau

The U.S. District Court in Denver passed down a ruling Monday prohibiting oil and natural gas exploration on the Roan Plateau near Grand Junction.

The ruling, made by U.S. District Court Judge Marcia S. Krieger, denies a 2007 Bureau of Land Management resource management plan approved during President George W. Bush’s administration that would have permitted the drilling of “thousands” of oil and natural gas wells on 55,000-acres of the Roan Plateau, according to an Earthjustice news release.

Earthjustice is a public interest law firm based in San Francisco, Calif.

Earthjustice attorney Michael Freeman filed the lawsuit in 2008 against the proposed RMP on behalf of numerous state and national environmental interest groups including the Colorado Environmental Coalition, Colorado Mountain Club, Colorado Trout Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Wild, Rock the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society and Wilderness Workshop.

The suit was filed to protect “some of North America’s rarest plants, genetically pure cutthroat trout, tens of thousands of acres of wilderness-quality land, and crucial habitat for prize herds of elk and deer,” according to the release.

In her opinion, Krieger said she sided with Earthjustice because the BLM failed to consider a more balanced plan that would have better protected the Roan’s wildlife, plants and pristine lands.

She also cited the agency’s failure to investigate the effects drilling would have on air quality.

“Judge Krieger’s decision reinforces our obligation to consider wildlife, habitat, and local community impacts as a priority instead of an afterthought,” said National Wildlife Federation regional representative John Gale in the release. “The Roan Plateau supports populations of big game like Mule Deer…It’s picturesque canyons have been cut by coldwater streams that have held native cutthroat trout since the Ice Age.

“We have a second chance to get it right on the Roan and the communities that depend on hunting, fishing and recreation to keep their economies going through energy boom and bust cycles.”

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