BLM plans influence energy development in Routt County | SteamboatToday.com

BLM plans influence energy development in Routt County

— The federal Bureau of Land Management plays a key role in overseeing oil and gas exploration on federal lands in Northwest Colorado, and two long-term plans that provide guidance on how energy development will go forward in Routt County are in different stages of development this fall.

Emily Spencer, an ecologist in the BLM's Little Snake Resource Field Office in Craig, said Friday the final record of decision on a new resource management plan that has been a decade in the making is due to be signed in Washington, D.C., shortly.

The Little Snake Office manages the large majority of BLM lands in Routt County, where local officials are evaluating four new petitions for permits to drill oil wells. However, two neighboring field offices in Kremmling and Silt are planning public hearings on their new draft management plans, which also include oil and mineral development policy.

"We only revise these resource management plans about every 20 years, so we really want to hear from the public and get feedback on the alternatives," Dave Stout, field manager for the Kremmling Field Office, said in a news release.

The role of the BLM in overseeing energy development on public lands is amplified by the role it plays overseeing drilling and site cleanup in energy development on national forests.

For example, the draft plan for the Kremmling Field Office covers 377,900 surface acres where sagebrush habitat and the wild and scenic statistics of rivers may be considered. However, its purview when it comes to subsurface mineral rights in Grand, Jackson, Routt, Summit, Larimer and Eagle counties expands to encompass 653,000 acres.

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The management plan for the Little Snake Field Office, due to be formalized soon, reports that more than 1 million acres currently are leased for oil and gas within its boundaries in Routt and Moffat counties and the northeast corner of Rio Blanco County. About 15 percent of those leases have seen oil and gas development.

While the current boom-let in drilling permit applications are focused primarily on oil, the Little Snake district is estimated to have 9.9 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas.

Areas that have been closed to drilling in the new plan include all 78,000 acres of wilderness study areas, the Emerald Mountain Special Recreation Area, Vermillion Basin, Dinosaur North, Cold Spring Mountain, Irish Canyon (an area of Critical Environmental Concern), and a section of the Yampa River suitable for wild and scenic status.

Colorado River Valley BLM

The draft management plan for the Colorado River Valley Field Office explains the division of responsibilities between the BLM and the Forest Service. The Forest Service, in its long-range planning, analyzes the impact of from oil and gas leasing and describes where it will and will not consent to leasing. The BLM takes responsibility for decisions concerning drilling, producing and plugging and abandoning wells drilled beneath Forest Service lands.

A small strip of southern Routt County falls within the oversight of the Colorado River Valley Field Office, where officials are preparing for public hearings on its new management plan. Although the office represents a small percentage of the county overall, the area exceeds 56,000 acres. Only a very small piece of eastern Routt County falls within the boundaries of the Kremmling Field Office.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

Open houses

■ Kremmling Field Office

4 to 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at the fairgrounds in Kremmling

■ Colorado River Valley Field Office

3 to 7 p.m. Oct. 6 at the BLM office in Silt, 2300 River Frontage Road

3 to 7 p.m. Oct. 11 at Eagle Public Library, 600 Broadway St.

3 to 7 p.m. Oct. 12 at Carbondale Town Hall, 511 Colorado Ave.

Online

Read the pending Little Snake Field Office management Plan at http://www.blm.gov. Click on the map of Colorado and then click on the Little Snake area. Scroll down to the second bullet point and click on “View Little Snake Resources Management Plan.”

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