DENVER, CO--(Marketwire - Jun 29, 2012) - One of Colorado's richest environmental and wildlife gems, the Roan Plateau, has a new lease on life thanks to a federal court ruling Friday, June 22, setting aside a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plan that would have allowed oil and gas companies to drill thousands of wells on 55,000 acres of the Roan.
The ruling, by U.S. District Judge Marcia S. Krieger in Denver, sets aside a resource management plan approved in 2007 during the Bush administration that would have sacrificed for oil and gas development 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. BLM acknowledged that drilling the Roan, in Western Colorado, would cause permanent and irreversible losses of native trout populations and rare plant species, and also that wilderness-quality lands and opportunities for backcountry recreation would be permanently destroyed.
Judge Krieger ruled that BLM's drilling plan needed further review because the agency failed to consider a more balanced alternative that would have better protected the Roan's wildlife, plants and pristine lands. In addition, the Court ruled that BLM failed to take a hard look at the air pollution that would result from drilling the Roan.
Specifically citing to national environmental advocacy group Rock the Earth's 2005 Comment Letter to BLM, Judge Krieger states, "Contrary to the BLM's position at oral argument that the Community Alternative was a 'moving target' that was 'not clearly defined' so as to permit meaningful analysis, the Court finds that the April 8, 2005 letter from Rock the Earth sets forth the general contours of the (or at least 'a') Community Alternative in sufficient detail so as to permit meaningful analysis of that alternative by the BLM. The Court further finds that the Community Alternative, at least as described in Rock the Earth's letter, was indeed a distinct and concrete 'alternative' to the other courses of action being contemplated by the BLM."
"The Roan Plateau is one of Colorado's richest environmental and wildlife gems," said Earthjustice attorney Michael Freeman. "The Court's ruling means that the Roan will get a second look and hopefully preserved."
Public interest law firm Earthjustice filed suit in 2008 to challenge the Bush-era BLM leasing plan on behalf of Rock The Earth, Colorado Environmental Coalition, Colorado Mountain Club, Colorado Trout Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Wild, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society and Wilderness Workshop.
Area residents, elected officials, conservation, hunting and angling groups have long advocated for protecting the Roan Plateau. The Colorado Natural Heritage Program has described the top of the Roan as one of the four most biologically rich areas in the state. The other three areas are part of the National Park System. BLM has stated that while the Roan is "the only area of the four that does not have protective status such as that afforded to National Parks or Monuments, it is clearly of comparable biological significance."
The Roan also serves as an economic mainstay, by supporting western Colorado's hunting and angling businesses. The land around the base of the Roan provides vital winter habitat that sustain some of the Colorado's best mule deer and elk herds.
"Judge Krieger's decision reinforces our obligation to consider wildlife, habitat, and local community impacts as a priority instead of an afterthought," said Marc Ross, executive director at Rock the Earth. "We are incredibly proud to have had Judge Krieger rely so heavily on the scientific and legal analysis contained within our comment letter in making her decision. BLM now has a second chance to get it right on the Roan. Energy extraction and wildlife conservation are not mutually exclusive and everyone's goals can be met. It is this pragmatic and collaborative approach that is at the heart of our Roan position and what we see as the future of energy development in this country."
Judge Krieger's full opinion dated June 22, 2012 can be read HERE.
About Rock the Earth
Rock the Earth is a national 501(c) (3) public interest, not-for-profit environmental advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and defending America's natural resources. We act as advocates to ensure the existence of a sustainable and healthy environment for all and represent those individuals and communities whose environment whose natural surroundings are directly and adversely affected by others. Thanks to generosity and support of a network of music industry partners and the world wide environmental community, we are able to carry out grassroots organizing, education, and legal action to mobilize public support and empower social change. Please visit www.RockTheEarth.org for more information.