The Roan Plateau, just west of Rifle, Colorado, provides an island of near-unrivaled biodiversity in western Colorado. The Roan contains essential habitat for genetically pure populations of Colorado River cutthroat trout; supports Colorado's greatest herds of elk and mule deer; and hosts a number of rare and sensitive plants. BLM itself acknowledges that the Roan also contains at least 19,000 acres of wilderness-quality lands. The area is extremely popular with sportsmen for backcountry angling, hunting and other recreation.
The BLM, however, plans to lease the Roan for oil and gas development, and to allow drilling more than 3,600 wells on the Upper Plateau. BLM admits that the backcountry and wilderness values for which the Roan is known would be seriously compromised by such intensive development. BLM's leasing plan also disregards widespread opposition from the towns and counties in the area, as well as from Colorado's governor and congressional delegation -- all of whom sought to additional protections for the Roan.
Earthjustice represents a coalition of groups in challenging the BLM leasing plan.
The Bureau of Land Management has agreed to establish a publicly-accessible drilling permit tracking system and to reexamine its analysis of the air pollution resulting from 34 oil and gas projects under the jurisdiction of the Colorado River Valley Field Office. The agreement settles a 2011 lawsuit brought by Earthjustice calling for a more thorough examination of pollution from oil and gas drilling, which is one of the main sources of regional haze and ozone pollution in the Intermountain West.
The fossil fuel industry is continuing its efforts to turn Colorado’s pristine Roan Plateau into a industrial drilling zone by filing a challenge to a District Court Judge’s ruling requiring the BLM to conduct a new environmental review of the area. Efforts to exploit Roan Plateau date back to a Bush-era plan that failed to adequately consider the potential impacts of drilling.