Cataloguing the wildlife and habitat on the gas-rich Roan Plateau and listing the history of public input asking that it be saved, a coalition of 10 conservation and wildlife groups filed suit today in Denver District Court to halt the Bureau of Land Management's August 14 auction of 55,000 acres on the plateau west of Rifle, Colorado.
A press release announcing the suit cites the BLM's "mindless devotion to industry’s demands." The groups are asking the court to set aside the Roan Plateau resource management plan and bar the BLM from leasing the area.
The plaintiffs, including the Colorado Environmental Coalition, Trout Unlimited, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, Colorado Mountain Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Native Ecosystems, Wilderness Workshop and Rock the Earth
argue that the agency violated federal law by failing to consider a reasonable range of alternatives, by failing to properly analyze impacts from their final plan and by arbitrarily ignoring likely drilling impacts beyond 20 years. The BLM also violated federal law by failing to analyze foreseeable impacts to air quality and wildlife populations and the cumulative impact of adding more than 1,500 new wells in the Roan planning area to the thousands of wells surrounding the plateau’s unspoiled public lands, according to the lawsuit.
The BLM rejected a request by Gov. Bill Ritter to expand wildlife habitat protections and lease the plateau in phases. U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar is currently seeking approval for Ritter’s recommendations in Congress.
Some 1300 gas wells are already operating in the area, most of them on private land, and the state has issued permits to drill 900 more.