It is not necessary to cut a 25.5 mile gash through public lands and roadless areas for a natural gas line when there are environmentally sensitive alternative routes, local conservation groups said today.
Wilderness Workshop and High Country Citizens Alliance strongly urge the U.S. Forest Service to oppose a permit application with Bureau of Land Management that would allow construction of a natural gas line through two national forests and three inventoried roadless areas in the Clear Fork Divide*.
Forest Service approval of the permit for the Bull Mountain pipeline project is necessary before BLM can issue the permit. The Forest Service’s decision is expected any day.
The proposal violates the 2001 Roadless Rule, which prohibits even temporary roads in designated roadless areas, said Robin Cooley, attorney for Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law firm that represents the groups.
“Aside from the immediate impact on natural habitat and wildlife, this proposal will set a precedent that could ignite a nationwide expansion of road building and development within public lands that have been protected up until now,” Cooley said.
The proposed corridor also will create an easy path for illegal motor vehicle use, said Dan Morse, public lands director for High Country Citizens Alliance.
The groups prefer two longer — but much less destructive — routes as alternatives to the Forest Service proposal, which would allow 8 miles of temporary roads through roadless areas, including a travelway up to 150-feet wide, while creating a permanent 50-foot-wide swath long the corridor’s entire length.
“During early stages of this project, we supported two reasonable alternatives to this high-impact route. These alternatives follow existing roads and transmission lines. While somewhat longer, these routes avoid roadless areas, minimize wildlife and habitat impacts and eliminate any chance of illegal motorized use of the pipeline corridor,” Morse said.
Any environmental impacts posed by the alternative routes are easily avoided with slight rerouting of the pipeline, fencing to protect wildlife populations and appropriate rehabilitation of disturbed areas, Shoemaker said.
“The Bull Mountain Pipeline is yet another case of the Forest Service bending to the will of corporate pressure to maximize profit margins,” Shoemaker said.
* The Clear Fork Divide connects the Grand and Battlement Mesas to the West Elk Mountains and the spine of the Rocky Mountains. It includes portions of Gunnison, Delta, Garfield, Mesa, and Pitkin counties. The Clear Fork Divide provides important wildlife habitat for big game and other species and is an extremely popular hunting grounds each fall.