Coalition Challenges HD Mountains Drilling

Dozens of methane wells would go into roadless areas


Ted Zukoski, Earthjustice, (303) 996-9622

Landowners, farmers, hunters, and other users of the HD Mountains are supporting a lawsuit to oppose dozens of methane wells planned for roadless watersheds and critical winter wildlife habitat near Bayfield.

Filed by Earthjustice, the lawsuit challenges approval of the wells last summer by the San Juan National Forest and Bureau of Land Management.

“The HD Mountains are the last tiny, little corner of the San Juan Basin not yet drilled for natural gas development,” said Jim Fitzgerald, who farms on 320 acres adjacent to the HD Mountains. “We rely on the undisturbed watersheds of the HD Mountains for our irrigation water and keeping our farms healthy and productive.”

Industry plans for drilling the HD Mountains, as approved by the U.S. Forest Service, will lace the currently roadless mountains with at least 11 miles of new roads cut into some of the steepest and most rugged terrain in the San Juan Mountains. The roads and gas pads will also obliterate remaining stands of old-growth ponderosa pine forests in the HD Mountains, many over 300 years old.

“The HD Mountains are a main migration corridor for elk and deer, one of the few that remain intact,” says Mike Murphy, a hunting outfitter for the past 25 years. “Drilling will disrupt the migration and scatter the herds.”

The lawsuit alleges the Forest Service and BLM violated the current San Juan Forest Plan to protect old-growth forest, wildlife habitat, water quality and riparian areas. The plaintiffs also claim the project will worsen the region’s ozone pollution and further impair declining visibility at Mesa Verde National Park and the Weminuche Wilderness.

Earthjustice represents San Juan Citizens Alliance, Oil and Gas Accountability Project, Colorado Environmental Coalition, Colorado Wild and The Wilderness Society.

Read the complaint

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