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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.