BLM defers oil, gas leasing near Dinosaur

The Bureau of Land Management has pulled three parcels east of Dinosaur National Monument from its Feb. 14 Colorado oil and gas lease sale after concerns were raised by the National Park Service and conservation groups.

The agency deferred the parcels, totaling more than 5,000 acres, for further analysis, after which it will decide whether to proceed later with leasing them.

“We did get a lot of feedback on those parcels,” said BLM spokeswoman Vanessa Lacayo, who said she was unable to speak to the specific reasons for the deferral.

Soren Jespersen, Northwest Colorado wildlands coordinator with the Wilderness Society, said it occurred because the BLM’s Little Snake Field Office hadn’t done a required recent inventory of possible lands with wilderness characteristics in the area of the lease parcels.

“We need to know the state of the area before we can decide how to manage it,” Jespersen said.

The acreage is on the entrance road to the national monument, along the banks of the Yampa River and near the Cross Mountain wilderness study area. Jespersen said it’s about two miles from the monument entrance and has the same qualities that make the monument and Cross Mountain area worth protecting.

The National Park Service didn’t file a formal protest against offering the parcels but asked that their leasing be deferred or withdrawn. Concerns of Park Superintendent Mary Risser include potential effects on air and water quality and fish and wildlife.

Jespersen said the agency also is worried about the prospect of oil and gas developers wanting to use Deerlodge Park Road, the monument access road in the area, which isn’t open to commercial traffic.

David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said recently that he thinks the industry can address such concerns.

“The park service can speculate about these things but I think that when given the opportunity we’ve shown that through technology, adaptive management and creative reclamation we can get from here to there,” he said.

The BLM is offering more than 100,000 acres statewide in the February lease sale, one of its largest in years. The sale also includes more than 20,000 acres in the Paonia, Hotchkiss and Crawford areas. The agency received more than 170 protests in connection with the sale, most pertaining to that acreage..

The BLM also is planning to offer oil and gas parcels just south of Dinosaur National Monument in its May lease sale.

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