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Montezuma County seeks to protect Phil’s World from oil and gas drilling

Commissioners seek to regulate oil and gas

Phil’s World, a popular network of mountain bike trails east of Cortez, is free from oil and gas development, and Montezuma County commissioners are looking for ways to ensure it stays that way.

Forty people attended a Montezuma County public hearing regarding a plan to protect the Phil’s World recreation area from energy development impacts.

The 2,400-acre area, six miles east of Cortez, includes mostly Bureau of Land Management land with some state land. No active oil or gas wells operate in the area, but it could be leased in the future. Montezuma county hopes to establish its own regulations for Phil’s World through a state land-use law intended to help counties protect areas of statewide interest.

“It is a valuable asset, and we should protect it,” Montezuma County Commissioner James Lambert said at the meeting held last week.

Colorado House Bill 1041 –the Areas and Activities of State Interest Act – was enacted in 1974.

A proposed county resolution would designate Phil’s World under the 1041 regulations as an area of state interest, and it would establish criteria for controlling development to avoid negative impacts to recreation.

The county commissioners said they want to regulate drilling in the area.

“We want to keep intact what we have on that property,” commissioner Keenan Ertel said.

The Southwest Colorado Cycling Association leases the state land area where the trail systems begins and ends, paying a fee and insurance costs. Users are urged to contribute to help cover costs.

The network of trails is crisscrossed by dirt roads, and there is an established and signed all-terrain vehicle trail. It was noted that the dirt roads may be more suitable for horseback riding.

“There’s plenty of room out there. Maybe we could add trails specific for horses,” said Dennis Geisler.

Gregory cautioned that oil and gas roads can quickly diminish bike trails.

Phil’s World has 27 miles of trails. The BLM is considering a proposal to add 25-30 miles of trails and a new parking lot.

The 1,041 rules for Phil’s World rules still in the formative stages, and Montezuma County plans another hearing on the matter.

“We can’t dictate rules for bikes and horses out there,” said county attorney John Baxter. “We can protect it from certain things like oil and gas.”

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