SOURCE: Rock the Earth

Rock the Earth

November 21, 2014 15:33 ET

Landmark Settlement Protects Colorado Roan Plateau

Rock the Earth and Conservation Organizations Mobilize to Restrict Energy Development in Remote, Biologically Rich Area

DENVER, CO--(Marketwired - Nov 21, 2014) - A landmark settlement following years of litigation will restrict natural gas development and protect a wealth of natural resources on the Roan Plateau, a rugged and remote backcountry located in northwestern Colorado.

The settlement this month marks the end of six years of litigation in federal court to stop the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from leasing 55,000 acres of public land for natural gas development.

The BLM had granted gas drillers broad access to environmentally sensitive areas of the Roan Plateau that would have allowed drilling atop a wide span of undisturbed wilderness -- one of the most biologically rich areas of Colorado. That decision spurred Rock the Earth and several conservation and outdoor organizations -- Earthjustice, Conservation Colorado, The Wilderness Society, Trout Unlimited and the Sierra Club -- to challenge BLM's plan in federal court in July 2008.

As a result of the settlement reached among the organizations, BLM, state and local officials, and energy companies, a majority of the leases that would have opened the door to unrestricted gas development on top of the plateau are to be cancelled. Also, BLM must now consider an alternative management plan for the Roan Plateau that restricts new energy development leases atop the plateau and allows for limited energy development subject to strict restrictions on the remaining leases.

"After a multi-year battle to protect one of the remaining wilderness-quality gems in the state, Rock the Earth joins with conservation and sportsmen groups, state, federal and local officials in a settlement that represents a pragmatic and reasoned compromise," said Marc Ross, Executive Director of Rock the Earth. "All we have ever advocated for was an alternative that was supported by the community, protected these precious natural resources, while still allowing reasonable energy development."

The Roan Plateau is located near Rifle, Colo. It is an oasis for wildlife, hunters, anglers, hikers and sightseers. The rugged hill country of mountain meadows, juniper woodlands, aspen stands and trout streams ranges in elevation from 5,000 feet to 9,000 feet.

The area, partly inaccessible because of a lack of roads, is home to bears, elk, mountain lions and a rare breed of genetically pure native Colorado trout, the cutthroat trout. The Roan Plateau also draws hunters, hikers, anglers and wildlife enthusiasts to the surrounding communities, injecting millions of dollars into a regional economy that depends on the preservation of its natural resources for recurring tourism dollars.

The environmental health of the Roan Plateau region is already under pressure from extensive energy development that preceded the recent efforts of Rock the Earth and its partners. A spider web of well pads, drill rigs, pipelines and waste pits dot the region's landscape, particularly in the valleys below the plateau. However, because of the settlement, an expansive sweep of the top of the plateau will remain remote and biologically rich woodland and mountain meadows. The settlement, in effect, draws a clear boundary line of prohibited development.

In 2012, Rock the Earth and its partners earned a major victory in federal court in Colorado when U.S. District Judge Marcia S. Krieger ruled in favor of their arguments against BLM's energy development plan and sent it back to the agency for further review. The energy companies that held the contested leases in the plateau appealed her decision to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

"In this true community alternative, the most threatened areas of the Roan and the species that call it home will be protected and energy development will move forward, providing and protecting the economic interests of the community on all sides of the issue. This compromise settlement is truly the best of what Coloradans can do when met with difficult challenges involving energy and natural resources," Ross said.

Rock the Earth also submitted more than 2,500 petitions to BLM to ensure that the alternative management plan and a pending supplemental environmental impact statement, both being drafted by BLM, will include environmental and species' protection provisions.

About Rock the Earth:
Rock the Earth is a national 501(c) (3) public interest, not-for-profit environmental advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and defending America's natural resources. We act as advocates to ensure the existence of a sustainable and healthy environment for all and represent those individuals and communities whose environment whose natural surroundings are directly and adversely affected by others. Thanks to generosity and support of a network of music industry partners and the world wide environmental community, we are able to carry out grassroots organizing, education, and legal action to mobilize public support and empower social change. Please visit www.RockTheEarth.org for more information.

Rock the Earth is a Denver-based nonprofit founded in 2002 by environmental attorney Marc Ross. Rock the Earth advocates to ensure the existence of a sustainable and healthy environment for all. We aim to represent those individuals and communities whose environment or natural surroundings are directly and adversely affected by others.

Contact Information

  • Press Contact:
    Marc Ross
    Rock the Earth
    Executive Director
    Office: (303) 454-3304
    Cell: (412) 953-6280
    Email: MarcR@RockTheEarth.org
    Website: www.RockTheEarth.org
    Address: 1536 Wynkoop St., Suite B200, Denver, Co., 80202