Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Groups sue over drilling leases on South Shale Ridge

An area that some call Colorado's Bryce Canyon is the focus of a lawsuit brought against the BLM by the Colorado Mountain Club, the Sierra Club, and just about every other major wilderness advocacy group in the state yesterday.

This is one more in a growing number of disputes that come down to natural gas extraction versus preservation of roadless areas on public lands.

The gist of the suit, according to a release from its filers, is this:

Citizens and conservation groups have long contended that South Shale Ridge’s multicolored canyons, wilderness qualities, unique hiking opportunities, wildlife habitat, and sensitive species require protection. Beginning in 1987, BLM’s original management plan for South Shale Ridge came under fire because it failed to properly account for the area’s wilderness, recreational, and biological values. In 1998, BLM initiated a multiyear review process led by citizens, stakeholder groups, and agency professionals. BLM’s findings, published in 2001, recommended that South Shale Ridge be reconsidered for protection as a Wilderness Study Area. The BLM then publicly committed to amending its 1987 plan to account for and properly manage the area’s wilderness features.

For years there has been strong, consistent public support for protecting South Shale Ridge from industrial development. In 2004 nearly 9,000 citizens sent comments urging BLM to protect the area for its wilderness, recreational, and biological values. Yet in November 2005 BLM leased almost the entire area for oil and gas drilling without putting measures in place to protect these values, including measures to protect the area's rare plants as part of an updated resource management plan.

Earthjustice, Colorado Environmental Coalition, Colorado Mountain Club, The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, and the Center for Native Ecosystems filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Denver to compel BLM to keep its promise and protect this area’s wildlife and natural beauty from oil and gas development.

To learn more about the area (from a wilderness point of view) click here.

No comments: