Enviros hungrily eye menu of conservation goodies under Obama administration

Besides revising or even rescinding Colorado’s controversial roadless rule, environmentalists are also targeting the Bureau of Land Management’s bitterly contested leasing for natural gas drilling on the Roan Plateau near Rifle as they make a wish list of conservation issues for the incoming Obama administration.

Although natural gas leases have already been sold on the environmentally sensitive upper reaches of the Roan, netting a record but roundly criticized $114 million, conservation groups are hoping those leases can either be bought back by the federal government or ruled invalid for being improperly allowed, according to the Aspen Daily News.

Energy industry advocates argued the estimated $2 billion they said the state would realize as a result of the Roan leasing was significantly reduced by Gov. Bill Ritter protesting how the BLM handled the auction and because of pending lawsuits from environmental groups. Ritter said the BLM erred in selling all the leases at once.

Other issues on the environmental wish list include significantly more wilderness area throughout the state, including a new proposal for 600,000 acres in the White River National Forest that’s been dubbed the Hidden Gems plan.

No new wilderness has been designated in Colorado since 2001, prompting Peter Hart, conservation analyst for the Wilderness Workshop, to tell the Aspen Daily News that, “At the national level, we’re hoping for a complete sea change. The conservation community has endured eight years of hell.”

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail and Real Aspen.