Groups Sue BLM Over Broken Wilderness PromisePublished by MAC on 2007-06-29
Groups Sue BLM Over Broken Wilderness Promise
29th June 2007
DENVER, Colorado, (ENS)
By granting oil and gas leases on Colorado's South Shale Ridge, the Bureau of Land Management, BLM, is sacrificing the wilderness qualities of thousands of acres in western Colorado, Earthjustice attorney Keith Bauerle argued today in federal district court.
Bauerle was presenting the case for a coalition of conservation groups that is suing the BLM to force the federal agency to keep its promise of protecting the wilderness, wildlife, and natural beauty of this area from oil and gas development.
The coalition is composed ot the Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club, and Center for Native Ecosystems, Colorado Environmental Coalition, and Colorado Mountain Club.
The groups claim that to allow leasing the BLM and U.S. Fish and Wildlife violated the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Federal Land Management and Policy Act.
The multicolored badlands of South Shale Ridge feature remarkable geological formations hidden within miles of twisting canyons, the groups say. The area is popular for backcountry recreation such as hiking, and its wildlife provides good opportunities for hunting.
In addition, South Shale Ridge is inhabited by bald eagles and rare plants.
BLM management plans were criticized 20 years ago because they did not account for the area's wilderness, recreational, and biological values. In 1998, during the Clinton administration, the BLM initiated a multiyear review process led by a committee of citizens, interest groups, and agency professionals.
BLM's official findings in 2001, at the start of the Bush administration, recommended that South Shale Ridge be reconsidered for protection as a Wilderness Study Area. The BLM then publicly committed to amending its 1987 management plan to account for and properly mange South Shale Ridge's wilderness features.
In 2004 nearly 9,000 citizens sent comments urging the BLM to protect the area for its wilderness, recreational, and biological values. Yet in November 2005 BLM leased almost the entire area for oil and gas drilling.
Meanwhile, the agency continues to lease millions of acres of public lands. As of January 2004, the BLM had issued more than 4,378 leases in Colorado, amounting to over 3.4 million acres of Colorado public lands.