Navajo nation, epa question plan to open land near great sand dunes for oil, gas drilling – find local recreational weed medical dispensaries near me types of electricity pdf


Gov. John Hickenlooper said he takes the concerns seriously. And state lawmakers are fighting the sale and asking for Colorado’s congressional leaders for help. Public land conservation groups including Conservation Colorado, the Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Association also strongly object.

But BLM officials were pressing ahead on an anonymously submitted proposal that eventually could bring industrial trucks and drilling rigs onto 18,000 acres of wildlife habitat in the Huerfano River Basin above the Wet Mountain and San Luis valleys. This reflects efforts by the Trump administration’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to accelerate development of fossil fuels on public lands, at a time when U.S. oil and gas exports are increasing.

The leases would give access to fossil fuels under land within a mile of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve . This would happen on land that energy company owners Crystal and David Watts, of Texas, bought last year from shampoo magnate Tom Redmond, where the Wattses told Huerfano County commissioners they will develop an elk hunting ranch, government records show. Just to the north, the Navajo Nation owns more than 26-square-miles, purchased last year from Redmond and another rancher, reclaiming Navajo ancestral land in Colorado.

“We feel the local communities wouldn’t want to be impacted by any possible detrimental drilling or production,” Navajo Nation President Begaye said in an email. “This land is sacred and the Navajo Nation will always protect the beauty and sacredness of the land.”

The BLM has not issued a required formal notice that the agency is selling off access to underground minerals and officials would not say who proposed the leasing. But agency spokesman Steven Hall confirmed the proposed lease sale, and documents obtained by the Denver Post show BLM staffers have been reviewing the matter since last year.

In April, Denver-based EPA officials sent a letter to the BLM addressing the agency’s initial environmental assessment. The BLM must make sure to inform Navajo Nation officials, the letter said. Navajo people regard 14,344-foot Tsisnaasjini, or White Shell Mountain (also known as Blanca Peak), and Big Sheep Obsidian Mountain (also known as Mount Hesperus), as sacred, the EPA noted.

BLM officials also must assess air quality impact in the area, which the National Park Service characterizes as sensitive, the letter said. Industrial spills could contaminate Huerfano basin groundwater, it said, recommending a study. And the EPA suggested considering whether a lease sale should be delayed until BLM officials complete an update of their 33-year-old land-use plan for the area.

Hickenlooper has declined to intervene, in contrast to governors, including Utah’s Gary Hebert, who have blocked BLM efforts to open pristine terrain for drilling and development. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials submitted comments to the BLM noting elk and other species live in the area but did not oppose opening the area to development.

However, state natural resources officials “agree with the EPA’s view that the BLM should take a close look at the current Resource Management Plan and consider carefully how the agency can apply best management practices, mitigation measures and stipulations to minimize impacts to land, air and water resources,” state spokesman Todd Hartman said in an emailed response to queries.

“We’re definitely contemplating all options to make sure the Trump Administration does not move forward on this,” said state Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, the House minority leader. A letter he and 15 legislators sent to BLM officials warned drilling in the area “would be an economic disaster for local economies that rely on tourism driven by Southern Colorado’s natural beauty” and appealed to “a moral responsibility to preserve our public lands.”

“This is a spectacular, still-wild part of Colorado and this lease sale threatens to industrialize it, to convert it into a fracking zone,” Center For Biological Diversity campaigner Taylor McKinnon said. “The watersheds on the east side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are important for wildlife and for the Arkansas River.”

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve natural resources chief Fred Bunch sent a letter to BLM officials raising concerns that oil and gas development would affect air quality, dark night skies, natural quiet and opportunities for people find solitude. Park officials also are concerned about impacts on the natural condition of the park, the spread of invasive non-native plants, and harm to migratory birds and a high-elevation species of dwarfed short-horned lizard, that letter said.

Park officials have been working with the U.S. Forest Service for years to control the spread of a white pine blister rust fungus that infects limber and bristlecone pines near the area that could be opened to development. Oil and gas operations would overlap work that entails trimming infected trees and collecting seeds from resistant trees.

National Parks Conservation Association programs manager Nicholas Lund said BLM officials have been shortening periods for public comment on lease sales. “We are calling on Colorado’s governor to defer this process. He can recommend that,” Lund said. “This is land adjacent to a national park and wilderness. It is a really high-value area.”