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Congressman Salazar: Energy Development Should Help the Community

Location: Washington DC

For immediate release
August 10, 2005


Salazar Urges BLM to Pull Parcels from Tomorrow's Auction

WASHINGTON, DC - Congressman John Salazar (CO-3) today urged the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to pull parcels of land from tomorrow's scheduled lease sale of oil and gas drilling rights. In the days leading up to the auction, county commissioners and hundreds of constituents throughout the district have protested the inclusion of certain parcels that are crucial to preserving Colorado's natural heritage and tourism economy. In a letter sent earlier today, Salazar urged the BLM to give proper consideration to the community's concerns with energy development.

"The BLM should remove controversial parcels from tomorrow's list," said Salazar. "The outpouring of comment from the community makes it clear that we need to revise the BLM's resource management plans. We need to take time to make sure the community is well served by energy development. The potential for future energy development will not be lost because additional time is taken to consider the full impacts of drilling on these lands."

Last week, Salazar visited several communities on the Western Slope to gain a better understanding about the local impacts of energy development.

The complete text of Salazar's letter to the BLM follows:

August 10, 2005

Dear Mr. Wenker: (Note: Ron Wenker is the Colorado State Director for BLM)

I write in regard to tomorrow's lease auction and ask that you consider removing lease parcel COC68786, located south of Paonia State Park in Gunnison County, from the list. In addition, I urge you to reconsider the leasing of parcels in Ouray County; McKenna Peak, Snaggletooth and Grand Hogsback area; and parcels which contain Gunnison Sage Grouse Habitat.

Over the past two weeks, I have been contacted by many constituents who are concerned that drilling on certain parcels will negatively impact their property, water quality and livelihood. I understand many of the leases up for auction are based on outdated BLM Resource Management Plans from the 1980s. Given that land use changes over the years, it is important for new leases to take into account current land use and environmental patterns. Some of these areas are now home to economically valuable recreation and hunting areas.

Kebler Pass and Gunnison County

One area particularly unsuitable for leasing that should be pulled is lease parcel COC68786 located south of Paonia State Park in Gunnison County. The scenic beauty of this area led to the establishment of several resorts which are now essential to the economic well being of the community. Industrial activity on this parcel could devastate the local economy. I share the concerns of the Gunnison County Commissioners on this and other parcels in Gunnison County and urge you to give their comments and concerns full consideration.

Ouray County

Private land owners in this county have concerns that the lease sales in this county will negatively impact their property. The Ouray County Board of Commissioners has expressed specific concern about the regulatory processes for parcels COC68834, COC68835, COC68836, COC69937, COC68840, COC68841, and COC8846. The BLM Resource Management plan in effect for Ouray County dates to 1989 and does not take into account the current situation in this area where the economy relies heavily on tourism and hunting.

McKenna Peak, Snaggletooth, and Grand Hogsback

The parcels in the McKenna Peak, Snaggletooth and Grand Hogsback area include unique geographical, recreational, wildlife, and plant values. Withdrawing these lands from the lease will not significantly diminish the oil and gas supplies made available in this sale. As an alternative, placing permanent no-surface-occupancy stipulations on those portions of those lease parcels will ensure protection of those natural values even while providing energy production opportunities.

Overall Wildlife Impact.

The Division of Wildlife has commented on the upcoming lease's possible negative impacts to wildlife that may hurt the Western Slope's hunting economy. I also share the Division of Wildlife's concern about leasing parcels that contain habitat for the Gunnison Sage Grouse, a species already being considered for the Endangered Species list. I urge you to give full consideration to all of their concerns.

In short, the outpouring of comments from local officials and constituents suggests that current policy for selecting lease parcels should be revisited. BLM should take the appropriate steps for controversial parcels and remove them from the list. The potential for future energy development on these will not be lost because additional time is taken to consider the full impacts of drilling on these lands.

Please feel free to contact me should you have additional questions regarding this matter.


John T. Salazar
Member of Congress

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