BLM issues final decision on Little Snake plan

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— The Bureau of Land Management released Monday the record of decision for the Little Snake resource management plan in Northwest Colorado.

The record of decision is the final step of an extensive, multiyear effort to develop a resource management plan for the 1.3 million acres of BLM-administered public lands and an additional 1.1 million acres of subsurface mineral estate administered by the Little Snake Field Office in Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties.

“There has been extensive public and cooperator involvement throughout this process, which began in 2004,” Little Snake Field Manager Wendy Reynolds said. “We have used this involvement to develop a plan that balances protection of sensitive resources with resource use.”

Major issues include energy and mineral development, transportation and travel management, and wildlife habitat, particularly for sage grouse, mule deer and elk.

The record of decision carries forward the specific decisions from the proposed resource management plan released in August 2010. These decisions include closing the 77,000-acre Vermillion Basin to oil and gas leasing and an approach to conserve key sagebrush habitat while allowing oil and gas development.

Craig teacher David Morris has come out in support of the record of decision, saying the BLM took the public’s opinion to heart.

“With this plan, the BLM has finally listened to what many locals in Northwest Colorado have been saying for years: that the public lands we have up here are some of the most spectacular lands this country has left,” Morris said in a BLM news release. “We believe these lands are worth protecting.”

However, the plan also has been criticized.

Some area conservationists think the decision is unbalanced, puts certain species in danger and provides too much land for energy development.

“While we are pleased to see the Vermillion Basin protected, we are dismayed that the plan still opens around 90 percent of the area to oil and gas drilling, leaving 10 percent for the myriad other uses of these amazing lands,” Soren Jespersen, of The Wilderness Society, said in a joint news release with the Colorado Environmental Coalition and Friends of the Yampa, a Steamboat Springs-based river advocacy group.

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