Commissioners to debate oil well access near ranch

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Routt County commissioners tonight will review the county's decision to allow road access to an oil well site on Bureau of Land Management property near the Three Forks Ranch.

Managers from the outfitting lodge in the northern part of Routt County have appealed the county's approval for a 2 1/2 mile road through the adjacent property, the Stull Ranch.

Jay Linderman, general manager of Three Forks Ranch, told the Routt County Planning Commission on Aug. 4 that the road was too close to sharp-tailed grouse habitat. Linderman also said he was concerned that the road could cause sedimentation that would harm species living in the Little Snake River.

The county has approved a special-use permit for the section of the 11-mile road that is on private land. Most of the road, as well as the exploratory oil well, are on Bureau of Land Management land, which is not under the county's control.

Through a request for a temporary restraining order in federal court, ranch managers have appealed the BLM part of the road as well as the oil well. That request was denied in July.

Clayton Williams Energy Inc. is proposing to repair or build the roads to provide access to the well site. The company has access rights for the entire road, which does not cross the Three Forks Ranch.

The well's previous owner had access to it through the east side of the site, where the Three Forks Ranch now stands. The ranch has denied access to Clayton Williams.

Planning commissioners reviewed the proposed road plan again Aug. 18, when they voted

7-1 to deny the ranch's appeal. The commissioners said the road construction should move forward, as long as Clayton Williams conducts annual monitoring of some of the grouse habitats.

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