BLM withdraws Grand County oil, gas lease parcels |

BLM withdraws Grand County oil, gas lease parcels

by Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News

The Bureau of Land Management announced that Grand County parcels have been taken off of the oil and gas lease sale map, at least for now.

“All of the parcels in Grand County were deferred,” said Jim Sample, a BLM public affairs spokesperson at the state office in Lakewood.

The reasons were two-fold, he said.

“The overall concern expressed by residents of Grand County was that people didn’t feel like they had enough information or had seen the notification,” he said.

The BLM also realized the parcels overlapped into a special recreation area of the upper Colorado River, one considered to have “heavy use.”

“I’m really glad that they want to understand a little more what are issues are,” said Scott Linn of the local chapter of Trout Unlimited, which filed a protest.

“With the looming impacts of the Windy Gap firming project and plans to take more water out of the river, without knowing that, we felt like they couldn’t fairly evaluate our situation,” he said.

All 22 of the parcels in Grand County, equating to nearly 31,000 acres, were pulled from the Nov. 8 sale to allow for more “public outreach.”

Although the BLM could still offer parcels with protests on-record to a buyer, with the buyer’s understanding that the protests need to be resolved or the land ultimately could be withdrawn, in the case of Grand County the land was taken off of the lease sale completely to allow for more study.

The acres could still be re-released as early as the next sale in February, Sample said, or postponed for a year or longer, depending what comes out of environmental analyses and other studies related to the protests.

Grand County’s citizens “felt like it was all moving too fast,” Sample said. “We’ll make sure we look at (their concerns) as carefully as everyone wants us to.”

Trout Unlimited’s concerns are for the upper Colorado river, which from Lake Granby down to the Williams Fork confluence is considered the driest stretch.

“That stretch of river is the most impacted, with the most sedimentation and the highest temperatures,” Linn said.

“And,” he continued, “if they start putting drill pads on the hillside, it could cause more erosion and sedimentation on the river.”

In the upcoming months, the BLM will be working with Kremmling Field Manager Dave Stout and public information officer David Boyd to have “as many public outreach sessions as people deem necessary,” Sample said.

In Jackson County, only portions of the lands offered were removed from the November sale. Sage grouse habitat was the pre-eminent consideration behind those deferments.

The Division of Wildlife regional office wrote a letter to BLM outlining their concerns on oil and gas interference with wildlife habitat, but the DOW “never actually filed a protest of its own,” Sample said.

Grand County commissioners and local officials are pleased that their protests worked.

“It’s just good that we all have time to further evaluate the impacts and the process for water protection and the natural beauty of Grand County,” Commissioner James Newberry said.

Trout Unlimited, the towns of Winter Park, Fraser, Grand Lake, Hot Sulphur Springs, Granby as well as the county and a number of individuals are among those with protests filed.

Granby Mayor Ted Wang gave the BLM his kudos. “I think it’s good for BLM that they listened to us.

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