Roan Plateau: Colorado Takes On the White House

Sen. Ken Salazar, Gov. Bill Ritter and Department of Natural Resources Director Harris Sherman will be flying over the Roan Plateau in Rifle on Tuesday to take an aerial view of this unique natural area. The trip is part of a continued effort by Colorado elected officials to wrangle with the Bush Administration over local and state rights on determining where energy development can occur on public lands.In May, Gov. Ritter requested that Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne grant Colorado an additional 120 days to review the Roan Plateau Management Resource Plan for oil and gas drilling atop the Roan Plateau presented by the Bureau of Land Management.  Kempthorne denied the request.

The BLM management plan called for almost immediate oil and gas drilling despite local and national concerns of environmental impacts.

Congressmen Mark Udall and John Salazar had initially planned on proposing an amendment to the Interior Department’s budget that would have delayed the BLM’s plan for at least a year. However, the White House tacked on a $10 million expenditure item to the proposal and the congressmen had to drop their amendment.

On Thursday, Sen. Salazar warned that he would block the appointment of James Caswell, President Bush’s nominee to lead the BLM until Kempthorne agrees to grant the 120 day waiver to the governor.

Hundreds of thousands of acres of public land have been leased for drilling in Colorado and the West, so what’s the deal over another 70,000 acres or so? With this tug-of-war over the Roan Plateau reaching the top echelons of the White House now, looks like the Democratic political leaders in Colorado can’t resist flexing their muscle.

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Leslie Robinson

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