BLM signals intent to do master leasing plan for South Park

February 14, 2013

On February 12 at the meeting of Park County's Advisory Board for Environment in Fairplay and again on February 13 at the BLM Regional Advisory Council meeting in Golden, the Royal Gorge Field Office Manager, Keith Berger, stated that BLM likely will conduct a master leasing planning process for South Park. We welcome this news after working since our original application on November 4, 2011.  However, BLM's intent is to undertake master leasing planning as a part of the overall Resource Management Plan (RMP) revision process.  That process will take at least 3-4 years and might not begin until fall of 2014.  We are pressing for a master leasing planning process in advance of the RMP revision process. It would benefit the community, BLM and industry.  

Here are the comments made by CWF at the BLM's Regional Advisory Council (RAC) meeting on February 13, and below these comments are those made at the RAC meeting by Eddie Kochman and by Misi Ballard, both South Park landowners and CWF members, who have worked hard in the effort to gain master leasing planning.

CWF's comments:

Colorado Wildlife Federation has advocated MLP for South Park beginning with an application on November 4, 2011.  We are pleased that BLM this month has signaled its intention to undertake master leasing planning for South Park 

However, BLM also said it intends to conduct an MLP within the future process for revising the 1996 Royal Gorge Field Office (RGFO) Resource Management Plan (RMP).  According to the BLM RGFO Manager yesterday, the start of the RMP work is one or two years away depending on funding and will likely be a three to four year process.  

Our strong concern is that oil and gas leasing might occur in South Park during this extended interim period of time before completion of the RMP revision.  Leasing has occurred elsewhere in Colorado during RMP revision processes. In other areas, Colorado BLM has used its old RMPs during prolonged revision periods to react to industry nominations for leases.

South Park is a unique area of Colorado.  The South Park Basin (within the Upper South Platte Watershed) supplies a substantial amount of the drinking water for the metro area through Denver Water and Aurora.  This remarkable area features gold medal fisheries, abundant wildlife, vistas, ranching and tourism. South Park also became designated by Congress in 2009 as a national heritage area, recognizing its protected natural resources, historic ranching and mining structures, and archeological sites.

Our request today is two-fold:

First, we urge that MLP be tackled now as a stand alone, rather than lumping development of a South Park MLP into the eventual estimated three to four year RMP process.  

Second, we urge that BLM not entertain nominations for leases in South Park before a MLP is in place.  The MLP will enable the RGFO to adopt a strategic landscape level approach.  Stated differently, the MLP process equips the BLM and the community and other stakeholders to take a careful look at potential conflicts between oil and gas development and drinking water, gold medal fisheries, wildlife, archeological treasures, vistas, etc.  Such an approach to MLP also will provide certainty for industry by identifying the lands for leasing which have the least amount of conflict. To lease parcels in the interim simply would undercut the ability to apply the MLP tools effectively.

 An MLP in South Park should be cost effective.  By way of important example, much legwork has been done and more is underway by Park County. The County commissioned the Coalition for the Upper South Platte to conduct a baseline sampling study that addresses water quality conditions in proximity to lands in the South Park Basin subject to past and potential future oil and gas development. The first report was completed in September 2012 and released in January 2013. The next phase will focus on the deep aquifers.  The water quality and geology of South Park form a very complex relationship, to say the least.   

Are there funds available now specifically for BLM to conduct MLPs ?

Thank you for this important opportunity to provide our comments and recommendations.

Sincerely,

Suzanne O’Neill

Executive Director

Colorado Wildlife Federation

 

 Comments by Eddie Kochman to the BLM RAC on February 13: 

To: Front Range RAC, Bureau of Land Management

From: Eddie Kochman

           P. O Box 224

           Fairplay, Colorado 80432

           eddiekochman@aol.com

 

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to members of the Front Range RAC.

 OVERVIEW

 I am a property owner in Park County. The property is located near Fairplay and borders sections of the Middle Fork of the South Platte, which is a quality trout fishery. I am fortunate to own such property and it is my objective to be a good steward in the future.

Other property owners and citizens of Park County share this objective. Management of the extensive Bureau of Land Management lands in Park County is critical toward achieving this objective.

I am also a member of the Park County Advisory Board on the Environment. The Board of County Commissioners appoints members. The role of the Board is to advise the Commissioners on matters related to the natural environment of Park County, which does include water, air, wildlife and wildlife habitat. We are also concerned about impacts to private property and maintaining the many qualities that make Park County and South Park a very special place.

 The Advisory Board on February 12 did hold a meeting in Fairplay, which was attended by Keith Berger, Field Manager of the Royal Gorge Field Office. Bill Dvorak a RAC member also attended the meeting. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss future plans of BLM regarding completion of a Master Leasing Plan (MLP) for portions of South Park.

 At the meeting Mr. Berger stated that completion of a future Master Leasing Plan was likely, depending on a number constraints, including obtaining the necessary budget to complete a MLP. This was very welcome news. Mr. Berger is scheduled to attend a future meeting of the Board of County Commissioners at which time he will further discuss a MLP.

Such news was very welcome and members of the Advisory Board very much appreciated attendance by both Mr. Berger and Mr. Dvorak

RECOMMENDATIONS TO FRONT RANGE RAC

 The following recommendations to the Front Range RAC are mine only and do not reflect a formal position of the Park County Advisory Board on the Environment. They are in large part based on the statements of Mr. Berger at the February 12 meeting of the Board.

 A Master Leasing Plan is necessary for those BLM lands in Park County regarding future leasing, exploration and production of oil and natural gas.

Amending existing plans, which contain out dated information, especially in relation to water related impacts, should not be an option.

No further leasing of BLM lands should be undertaken until a MLP is completed.

The final design of a MLP should take into consideration recommendations by Park County (including towns), water municipalities, (including Denver Water and Aurora Water), local water authorities United States Forest Service, State of Colorado agencies (including Parks and Wildlife), livestock interests, organized recreational and environmental interests, historical, Native American, mining and oil gas interests and local residents.

 The MLP process should begin at some point in 2013 and can be undertaken in segments. For example, Park County does have a significant level of water quality data that is now available for inclusion into a MLP analysis. In addition, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has extensive data on wildlife and habitat within Park County, including on BLM.

The BLM should consider entering into an agreement with Park County and other interests for completion of a MLP. Perhaps there are also options for funding assistance.

There should be a public outreach program developed by the BLM to keep all concerned advised on the progress of designing and implementing a MLP plan

ATTACHED RECOMMENDATIONS CONCERNING THE CONTENTS OF A MLP

Attached for review is correspondence dated December 5, 2012, which contains my recommendations for MLP contents. I am aware of the specific criteria established for an MLP, but feel there are specific area in Park County, such as water aquifers and potential for contamination, that deserve special consideration.

Thank you for the opportunity and I again state that such recommendations and comments are mine only. 

Copies

    Park County Advisory Board Members

   Tom Eisenman, Park County

 

Comments by Misi Ballard to the RAC February 13:

My name is Misi N. Ballard.  I am a property owner and part-time resident of South Park,

Colorado.  I am the South Park Broadband Leader for the the Great Old Broads for

Wilderness and a Board member of Wild Connections.  I appreciate this opportunity to

 express my deep concerns for the future of South Park to the Front Range Resource

 Advisory Council. 

 

As was announced yesterday by Mr. Keith Berger, BLM’s Royal Gorge Field Office Manager,

at the Advisory Board on the Environment meeting in Fairplay,   the BLM is now

 considering the inclusion of a Master Leasing Plan in the upcoming revised Resource

Management Plan process.  This is welcome news to those of us concerned about the

tremendous environmental threats facing South Park from potential major energy

development on our public lands.  We also heard, though, that BLM leasing activities may

 continue as normal  while the Resource Management Plan is revised, a process that

can easily take years to complete, without benefit of a Master Leasing Plan to guide current

development.   This scenario would leave South Park vulnerable to all the potential

 environmental threats inherent in energy development including surface and groundwater

 contamination, air, noise, light and traffic pollution, and the resulting loss of the rural, wild

 character of the area upon which its strong outdoor-oriented economy is based, and the

destruction of critical wildlife habitat and migratory corridors ; in short,

we would be opening the door to the industrialization of South Park.   We simply cannot

allow the possibility of piecemeal development  to occur.

 

In light of BLM’s acknowledgement of the need for a Master Leasing Plan in South Park, it is unacceptable to consider proceeding with business as usual until such time as  the revised Resource Management Plan is completed.  Knowing that the RMP process will likely take years to complete, I request that BLM develop a Master Leasing Plan for South Park before beginning the lengthy Resource Management Plan process, thereby immediately enabling a broader consideration of potential energy development impacts to the entire landscape of South Park and its resources, including  water quality and quantity, wildlife habitat, fisheries and air quality before leases are issued during this interim period.  A MLP could reasonably be deveped with in 6 months.

We have a heavy responsibility to protect the clean water that more than half of Colorado’s 5 million people depend upon, the wildlife populations and their habitats found in South Park, and the rural quality of life and the strong recreation-based economy it supports, not just for our present-day population but for the generations to follow.  A Master Leasing Plan will help avoid the conflicts and harmful impacts inherent where mineral and important wildlife and environmental resources overlap.

Thank you.

Misi N. Ballard

South Park Broadband Leader

Great Old Broads for Wilderness

southparkbroadband@gmail.com

303.884.7640

 

 

Site by Chico Web Design