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Feds to focus on oil, gas concerns

Parts of La Plata, Montezuma counties to receive master leasing plan
A drilling rig south of Durango works at a existing well pad near U.S. Highway 550. The Bureau of Land Management is setting out to write a master leasing plan for western La Plata County and eastern Montezuma County.

Federal officials are going to spend more time planning for potential oil and gas development in western La Plata and eastern Montezuma counties this year and next.

A resource-management plan filed early in 2015 with the Bureau of Land Management’s Tres Rios Field Office set guidelines for drilling and all other activities across eight counties

But some residents and environmental groups thought the plan did not address some specific effects oil and gas drilling could have on the western side of La Plata County and the eastern side of Montezuma County, said Jimbo Buickerood, public lands coordinator for the San Juan Citizens Alliance. La Plata County also filed a letter protesting the management plan in 2013.

Some parcels in this area were put up for lease for oil and gas development in 2012, but the leases were withdrawn by the BLM, said Christi Zeller, executive director of the La Plata County Energy Council.

“This has been a continual and constant delay,” she said.

Now, the local BLM office is setting out to write a master leasing plan that will take a closer look at some of the specific concerns in the two counties and hold public meetings to hear from residents later this year, said Connie Clementson, the field manager for the Tres Rios Field Office.

The plan could cover about 8,000 acres in La Plata County.

She outlined the goals of the plan for La Plata County commissioners Wednesday, and asked the county for its help to set up a working group.

The group will include five representatives from Montezuma County and five from La Plata County. A commissioner from each county, industry and environmental representatives and residents with ties to BLM land will all be included, Clementson said.

This group will work on a report for the BLM to inform the master leasing plan.

This leasing plan could help encourage wells to be more centralized to avoid sprawl, protect the views around Mesa Verde National Park and protect deer populations, said Buickerood.

“We were happy to see that it’s moving forward,” he said.

Water in western La Plata County is a hot topic, and there are concerns about where gas and oil companies might obtain the necessary water if they started fracking in the area, he said.

Commissioner Gwen Lachelt told Clementson she would like to see a deeper analysis on water issues.

“The resource-management plan didn’t include an adequate analysis of water resources in La Plata County,” she said.

But Zeller argues more analysis is unnecessary.

“The acreages that we’re talking about have already been covered by multiple other plans,” she said.

mshinn@durangoherald.com

Nov 30, 2021
Environmentalists slam new BLM plan
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