More conservation groups are suing the Bureau of Land Management over a management plan that could open hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands in southwest Colorado to drilling.
The Western Slope Conservation Center, Wilderness Workshop and The Wilderness Society filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court that says the BLM didn’t take a good enough look at the potential impacts of oil and gas drilling on waterways and lands with wilderness characteristics.
The federal agency also failed to fully assess the effects on climate change and didn’t meet its legal obligations to consider a broad range of options for managing the public lands, the lawsuit says.
The groups are challenging the approval of a plan by the BLM’s Uncompahgre Field Office that will guide management of and development on the federally managed lands over the next 20 years. The area includes the North Fork Valley, well known for its growing number of organic farms and wineries.
There are existing wells in the area, but opponents of more wells said opening additional land to drilling will endanger the local economy.
“Our valley’s economy is powered by family farms, orchards, small businesses, and local ranchers,” Scott Braden with the Western Slope Conservation Center said in a statement. “Today’s legal challenge is an important step toward holding the BLM and this administration accountable to our community, since they failed to do so in their plan.”
Conservation organizations, including six that filed a similar lawsuit in August, local elected officials and other critics of the plan say BLM approved a management scheme that wasn’t one of the four presented to the public and discussed throughout the process.
The BLM management plan covers nearly a million acres in southwest Colorado just south of Grand Junction and in Montrose, Gunnison, Ouray, Mesa, Delta, and San Miguel counties. There, BLM oversees 675,800 acres of public lands and administers 971,220 acres of oil, gas and other federal minerals.
The Colorado BLM office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
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