BLM RESOURCE MANAGEMENT PLAN

Proposed Resource Management Plan


In 2019, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a proposed Resource Management Plan (RMP) for 675,800 acres of its public land along the Lower Gunnison, Uncompahgre, and San Miguel watersheds and 971,220 acres of federal mineral estate. This Uncompahgre RMP will determine the management of BLM lands in this area, collectively known as the Uncompahgre Field Office (UFO), for decades to come.

Discover what was proposed for the Lower Gunnison watershed, and what steps you can take to have your voice heard.

Background on the RMP

The Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the Uncompahgre Field Office will guide management decisions for the next 15-20 years in the planning area. The communities of the North Fork Valley successfully waged a campaign to include the North Fork Alternative Plan (NFAP) in the Draft RMP. The draft RMP was released on June 3rd, 2016 for public comment, and included four Alternatives, including the NFAP as Alternative B1. During the public commenting process, the BLM received over 52,000 comments.

Proposed RMP (PRMP)/Final EIS (FEIS)

After it has considered the comment received on the draft RMP/DEIS, the agency issued a proposed plan and FEIS on June 28th, 2019. The FEIS identifies changes from the Draft RMP, and provides a similar analysis of the proposed plan as in the Draft RMP, but with less of the comparative detail and analysis. The Proposed RMP also includes public comment received in Volume 4/Appendix R, or some summary of such, and the response to the issues raised from the BLM.

Issues with the PRMP/FEIS

The Proposed RMP has major negative implications for the North Fork Valley. Mainly, it proposed a new alternative that wasn’t in the Draft RMP. This new alternative has not been subject to any public comment period, and represents the most development-friendly of all the alternatives in the Draft RMP. Other issues with the PRMP include:

  • Opens 95% of lands in UFO to fluid mineral development; Closes only 5% of lands – this is consistent with the agencies Alternative C, focusing on heavy resource extraction for our public lands.
  • Drastically decreases the amount of lands No Surface Occupancy from 26% to 11% compared to agencies Preferred Alternative D.
    Drastic increase in lands available for lease with standard stipulations – from 0% to 12% (109,360) – primarily in the North Fork and Lower Gunnison Watersheds.
  • Preferred alternative listed 177,700 acres of “Ecological Emphasis Areas” meant to protect wildlife habitat and migration corridors; Proposed RMP has NO EEA’s, consistent with the “no action alternative”
  • Reduces Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) from 51,320 to 30,190 compared to preferred alternative. PRMP most closely reflects Alternative C

Where Are We Now?

Important Protests

After the release of the PRMP/FEIS, the BLM held a 30-day protest period. This period allows citizens, organizations, and municipalities who previously commented during the process to file a protest, informing the agency the ways how they will be adversely affected by the approval of the PRMP, and how previous comments submitted did not result in substantive changes being made to the PRMP. Notably, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, among many others, submitted a protest specifically concerning the lack of protections for winter range and migration corridors to sustain big game populations, as well as inadequate protections for the Gunnison Sage-grouse. Other municipalities who submitted protests include Gunnison County, Ouray County, San Miguel County, and the Town of Paonia, among many others.

Governor’s Consistency Review

Per the National Environmental Policy Act requirements, the release of the PRMP/FEIS also triggers a 60-day Governor’s Consistency Review period. This review allows Governor Polis to weigh in on the process and determine if the proposed RMP fits his vision for Colorado’s future. Governor Polis’ review, submitted on September 9, notes several inconsistencies between the BLM’s proposed RMP and Colorado state legislation. Gov. Polis’ review calls for the RMP to ensure that any oil and gas activities occurring on federal lands in Colorado be in compliance with all State regulations and permitting requirements, including SB19-181 and HB19-1261, and to maintain public participation in all oil and gas activities. Also, Governor Polis notes inconsistencies with state wildlife plans, including but not limited to the Gunnison Sage-grouse Rangewide Conservation Plan, Uncompahgre Plateau Elk Management Plan, and a recent Executive Order which protects Colorado’s Big Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors.

Next Steps

The next and final step in the NEPA process is for the Uncompahgre Field Office to release their Record of Decision and the final Resource Management Plan will go into effect.  This final document will, according to the BLM, have taken into consideration all protests and the Governor’s Consistency Review. It is promising to see the Governor’s office participating in the process. WSCC will continue to argue that reasonable conservation stipulations and policies should be included in the UFO RMP.

If you would like to continue the fight, please consider doing one of the following:

Write a letter to your local newspaper!

Write an op-ed or a letter to the editor in your local paper, describing how the RMP will affect your livelihood.

Delta County Independant Submission Page

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel Submission Page

Topics that you may want to include are:

Water

Domestic Water Sources – The final plan must protect the health of the watershed for the greatest number of users. The final plan must exclude all oil and gas activities within a half-mile of all surface and ground domestic water sources, including municipal waters supplies, that risk being impacted by surface spills and well failure. Most of the domestic water sources in the North Fork Valley are surface springs and streams that are either on or near BLM lands affected by this plan.

Irrigation water and agriculture – The final plan must protect local agriculture by excluding oil and gas activities within a quarter mile of ditches, domestic water decrees, dams, irrigation intakes, or canals. This is a minimum distance required to safeguard direct and rapid impacts from surface spills and other contamination from oil and gas activity.

Streams and surface water quality – The final plan must protect streams and surface water quality, protecting ecological resources, aquatic habitat, recreational attractions, water storage, and flood control by closing areas within a half mile of lakes, ponds, wetlands, and reservoirs to oil and gas activities including leasing.

Economic Impacts

Recreation – River and trail recreation are a growing economic opportunity in the North Fork, with these industries bringing millions of dollars to communities in Colorado. The North Fork Alternative provides protection from oil and gas development for streams and river corridors, trailhead areas, the flanks of the West Elk Mountains, and the Jumbo Mountain area. These protections must be included in the final plan.

Agri-tourism – The final plan must protect the idyllic character and scenic beauty of the North Fork Valley, which is home to the West Elk Wine region and has been called Colorado’s Farm-to-Table Capital. Alternative B1 requires development setbacks from agricultural lands, prevents damage to visual qualities, and best preserves the current rural character of the valley.

Real Estate – Real estate sales in the North Fork Valley continue to be driven by those seeking a rural, non-industrial, and agricultural lifestyle. The final plan must protect the investments locals have made in the value of their home and land, and should not allow for speculative oil and gas leasing which discourages homebuyers from purchasing in our communities, producing real and direct negative economic impacts on our communities.

Public health and safety

Traffic impacts – The final plan must adequately mitigate the traffic impacts of oil and gas activity within the North Fork of the Gunnison Watershed. Local residents rely on a handful of narrow state highways for daily transportation and emergency access. Oil and gas activities would significantly increase the number and frequency of oversized trucks and machinery transported on our highways, increasing the risk of accident and emergency vehicle blockage.

Recreation

Jumbo Mountain Trails – The BLM lands on and surrounding Jumbo Mountain are a well-used and well-loved recreation asset for North Fork residents. The final plan should include the entire Jumbo Mountain unit as a special recreation management area to protect the quality of the recreation experience. This area is essential for quality of life, recreation tourism, and the businesses that rely on those tourists. The final plan should also include an Ecological Emphasis Area to protect critical winter mule deer and elk habitat.
Hunting and Fishing – Public lands access for hunting, camping, fishing and travel, as well as plentiful and healthy habitat are critical components that help sustain the multi-million-dollar hunting industry in the area. The final plan should include ecological emphasis areas for all critical winter habitat within the North Fork Valley. The final plan should also include the protections of B1 which prohibits surface activities in critical wildlife habitat, and includes both No Leasing and No Surface Occupancy setbacks from streams, riparian areas, and water bodies.

Wildlife

Adobe Badlands – The final plan should protect all lands with wilderness characteristics, including the Adobe Badlands. This area is full of fascinating canyons, mesas and arroyos, and provides important connectivity between the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area and pristine roadless lands in the Grand Mesa National Forest.

Stevens Gulch – The final plan must protect all lands with wilderness characteristics, including the areas up Stevens Gulch. This area is home to a population of Purple Martins that are not found in other areas. It also has one of the largest mature aspen stands in the world, providing prime habitat for elk and deer, and provides important connectivity between the valley bottoms and the roadless lands in the Grand Mesa National Forest. Hunting in this area is an important part of both our culture and our economy.

Get in touch with your elected officials!

We encourage you to tell your elected officials what you think of the UFO RMP. Here is their contact information:

David Bernhardt
Secretary
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240
https://www.doi.gov/contact-us

Casey Hammond
Director
Bureau of Land Management
1849 C Street NW, Rm. 5665
Washington DC 202420
director@blm.gov

Jamie Connell
Colorado State Director
Bureau of Land Management
2850 Youngfield Street
Lakewood, Colorado 80210
jconnell@blm.gov

Greg Larsen
Uncompahgre Field Office Manager
Bureau of Land Management
2465 South Townsend Avenue
Montrose, CO 81401
glarsen@blm.gov
970.240.5300

Town of Hotchkiss
PO Box 369, 276 W Main St
Hotchkiss CO 81413
970.872.3663
http://townofhotchkiss.com/contact-us

Town of Paonia
PO Box 460, 214 Grand Avenue
Paonia, CO 81428
970.527.4101
Paonia@townofpaonia.com

Town of Crawford
PO Box 8920, 425 Highway 92,
Crawford CO
970.921.4725

Delta County Commissioners
501 Palmer, #227, Delta CO 81416, 970.874.2100
Mike Lane; mlane@deltacounty.com
Don Suppes; dsuppes@deltacounty.com
Mark Roeber; mroeber@deltacounty.com

State Senator Kerry Donovan
200 E Colfax Ave, Office 339
Denver, CO 80203 303.866.4871
Kerry.donovan.senate@state.co.us

State Representative Julie McCluskie
Colorado State Representative, District 61
200 E Colfax, Denver CO 80203 303.866.2952
Julie.mccluskie.house@state.co.us

Senator Michael Bennet
225 N. 5th St Ste 511
Grand Junction, CO 81501 970.241.6631
http://www.bennet.senate.gov/contact

Senator Cory Gardener
400 North St, Suite 702
Grand Junction, CO 81501 970.245.9553
www.gardener.senate.gov/contact-cory/email-cory

Representative Scott Tipton
225 North 5th St, Suite 702
Grand Junction, CO 81501 970.241.2499
https://tipton.house.gov/contact-me/email-me

Governor Polis
State Capitol Bldg – 200 E. Colfax Ave., Rm. 136, Denver, CO 80203 (303) 866-2885
https://www.colorado.gov/governor/share-comments

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