Protecting Colorado’s Roan Plateau Shows We Can Balance Lands and Energy

Nov 21, 2014

By Center for Western Priorities

Colorado’s political leaders, Interior Department officials, communities, and the oil and gas industry showed today that balance is possible on our Western lands. After years of controversy, an agreement has been reached to protect the Roan Plateau, an area renowned for its scenic beauty and its wildlife habitat, while still allowing energy companies to access the oil and gas reserves located beneath the plateau.

According to the Denver Post:

Nearly all of the Bureau of Land Management leases that allow Bill Barrett Corp. to drill on top of the plateau will be canceled, and $47 million will be paid back to the company. Drilling would be allowed on less sensitive areas below the rim and around the base of the Roan.

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar had initiated action at the federal level, and [Colorado Governor] Hickenlooper engaged for the state, trying to work out a compromise. The end result — limited drilling on the scenic top with continued drilling at lower elevations subject to protections — reflects extensive efforts to balance resource extraction for the domestic fossil fuels boom with preserving a relatively untrammeled environmental sweet spot.

The Roan Plateau was leased during the waning days of the George W. Bush administration, without considering the impacts of road building, fragmentation, and drilling.

The long and costly fight over the Roan Plateau highlights how important it is to carry out smart land use planning before leasing our national public lands for development. The top of the Roan Plateau is a landscape that’s always been too wild to drill.

Under President Obama, the Interior Department has made great strides to reform the oil and gas leasing process and strike a better balance between development and other important uses of national public lands like outdoor recreation, wildlife and water supplies.