Nearly two million acres of Colorado public land could be protected from future oil and gas drilling for decades to come. There is a proposal to preserve some of the state’s best recreation areas and habitats for bighorn sheep, native trout, and endangered species such as the humpback chub. This is great news for nature.
A new proposal for western Colorado
In response to public concerns related to climate change and wilderness preservation in the state, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Colorado proposed a new land management plan in August of 2023. The BLM has proposed protecting nearly two million acres of federal public land in western Colorado from future oil and gas leasing. The land that will be affected by the new management plan covers an area spanning from portions of Eagle and Pitkin counties on the western slopes to areas around Grand Junction. It includes popular areas like the Dolores River Canyon, Book Cliffs, and Grand Hogback.
The Dolores River Canyon is one of Colorado’s best intact wildlands. The canyon and river that flows through it have some of the best water recreation, hiking and biking opportunities in the state. Book Cliffs is a very remote recreation area that is home to wildlife species like black bears, blue and sage grouse and other species common to Colorado’s mountain environments. The hiking area includes biomes from desert shrublands at its lowest elevations to aspen groves at its highest. Grand Hogback is a very steep geologic formation that spans 90 miles through the state and is well known for its steep, scenic cliffs that dominate the views of the local area.
We could see 95% of this area protected
“Alternative F” of the management plan is the most favorable plan for nature. It would set aside 95% of the land from future oil and gas leasing and even expand the protection area of the Castle Peak Wilderness Study Area (WSA) in Eagle County. If you have ever driven on Interstate 70 in the central mountains, you have probably seen the towering 11,240-foot-tall Castle Peak in the distance. The Castle Peak WSA surrounds this peak and the expansion would include adding 3,900 acres to this beautiful Colorado state treasure.
The adoption of Plan F would be a major victory for nature, maximizing the environmental protection opportunities across western Colorado. As climate change continues to intensify and 71% of Coloradans hope that leaders will focus more on the protection of “water, air, wildlife habitat, and recreation opportunities”; the BLM must act to minimize major greenhouse gas emissions that could be emitted from activities on its land. The adoption of Plan F would significantly decrease the amount of potential future oil and gas harvesting in the state while also ensuring protection for lands of tribal significance and for Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). ACECs are areas that are established to preserve unique environmental characteristics within the area. These characteristics can range from natural resources to wildlife, and cultural locations. This proposal will significantly protect Colorado’s wildlife and water, and reduce the land’s potential contribution to climate change.
The BLM is seeking public input
Currently, the BLM has opened a public comment period on the management proposal until November 01, 2023. The Bureau of Land Management will not act unless they know that people across Colorado and the United States care about prioritizing land conservation! Make a comment today and tell the BLM that Alternative F is the best for protecting the wild places that we love, value, and want to see protected in western Colorado.
Director, Public Lands Campaign, Environment America
Ellen runs campaigns to protect America's beautiful places, from local beachfronts to remote mountain peaks. Prior to her current role, Ellen worked as the organizing director for Environment America’s Climate Defenders campaign. Ellen lives in Denver, where she likes to hike in Colorado's mountains.
Environment Colorado Intern