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Mark JaffeMark JaffeFebruary 18, 20187min484
The citizen councils in Colorado created to advise the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on local issues have been blocked from meeting for a year by Trump administration reviews and delays, setting off protests and resignations. The regional advisory councils, or RACs, were created by statute in 1995. There are three in Colorado—one each […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirFebruary 13, 20182min878

The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction offers an update this week on the West Slope’s high hopes for landing a relocated U.S. Bureau of Land Management headquarters. The upshot? Keep the faith.

Reports the Sentinel’s Gary Harmon:

“More under this administration than any other administration, it’s highly likely,” Mesa County Commissioner Scott McInnis, a (former) six-term congressman, said of relocating the BLM headquarters.

“I think we’ve got a great chance” to land the agency, McInnis said, acknowledging that there will be in-state competition for the headquarters. …

… Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has been open to the idea of moving the headquarters, according to federal legislators who have discussed it with him.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, both Colorado Republicans, have introduced companion measures calling for the BLM to be moved to a Western state.

But Harmon also notes:

…Zinke is considering reorganizing the way Interior manages its lands and resources, possibly by establishing offices along major river drainages.

The Colorado and Gunnison rivers meet in Grand Junction before flowing into Utah, making the city a potentially ideal location for such an initiative.

The BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Reclamation, all with significant presences already in Grand Junction, are Interior Department agencies that could be affected by a reorganization. The U.S. Forest Service, an Agriculture Department agency, also might be affected.

Either way, maybe, Grand Junction could get more federal FTEs and office space, whether it’s a new Western HQ for BLM or some other reorganization at Interior. As ever, we’ll stay tuned.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchNovember 10, 20175min1047

Conservation Colorado is this juggernaut green organization that gives state and national candidates the heebie-jeebies in the West’s political wilds. Last year, 54 of the 60 candidates it endorsed went on to win.

And whenever legislation affecting the environment, large or small, is debated at the Capitol in Denver, Conservation Colorado is there in big ways and small.

But this year Conservation Colorado made its first municipal-level endorsements in Aurora Wards I and II.

Michal Rosenoer, the organization’s Front Range field manager, and her organization also helped campaign for Crystal Murillo and Nicole Johnston, too.

“This election is also an important triumph of progressive values and people-power over oil and gas-backed interests,” Rosenoer said. “Despite industry front group Vital for Colorado investing hundreds of thousands of dollars on these and other local races at the eleventh hour, voters ultimately picked candidates who pledged to stand up for our right to clean air, open spaces, and healthy communities.”

She also said, “Crystal and Nicole will bring a much-needed focus on diversity and inclusivity to the Aurora City Council, and will be champions on issues including oil and gas, transportation, growth, and social and environmental justice.”

The day after the election, however, Rosenoer, the Front Range leader, was tweeting about what was going down on the Western Slope the day before the election.

A protest over methane gas in Durango clearly warmed the spirits of the state’s largest environmental organization, which seems to have a lot of fires on a lot of fronts these days. (Donald Trump is good for business, if you make being your business.)

The Durango Herald’s Jonathan Romero reported that about 100 people gathered in a Durango park to raise a ruckus over Trump’s rollback of bipartisan rules passed last year to prevent methane leaks from oil and gas wells on public lands controlled by the Bureau of Land Management.

“Without this rule our county could face terrible health impacts,” Kellie Pettyjohn, a local farmer, told the Herald. “We don’t want this one-year delay. We want this rule in place.”

Based on rules first adopted in Colorado, the BLM methane rule would affect more than 100,000 wells that Romero reports can release up to 180,000 tons of methane annual a year. Moreover that’s methane that could be captured and sold to bring in additional money for schools and other public projects.

Conservation Colorado was all over the local activism.

Lisa Pool, Conservation Colorado’s field organizer for Durango, told us more:

“It was remarkable to see how well the protest was attended and how passionate people were about the subject,” she told Colorado Politics. “Here in Durango we suffer from a cloud of methane pollution, so the issue is visceral for people. They were infuriated not only by the proposed delay, but also by how limited the public is allowed to be engaged by the process. Protestors of all ages were fired up and chanting throughout.”

The organization Thursday announced it’s promoting communications director Jessica Goad to deputy director, where she’ll “work more directly on elections, campaigns, building the team, and helping hire a new executive director.” Pete Maysmith stepped down as the organization’s leader last month to take on a national role with the League of Conservation Voters.


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 29, 20173min519
Colorado’s U.S. senators are supporting a plan to relocate the Bureau of Land Management to Colorado. A recent report suggests that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke plans to relocate the BLM headquarters from Washington, D.C. to Denver, though that report could not be verified with a spokeswoman for the Interior Department. U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a […]

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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJuly 27, 20174min287
Reactions are predictably split between environmental and oil and gas interests over a recent plan by federal regulators to rescind an Obama-era fracking rule. The Bureau of Land Management’s 2015 rule sought to limit hydraulic fracturing on public lands. The rule was never in effect due to pending litigation, which continues in Denver on Thursday. […]

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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJuly 4, 20176min416
This Thursday, May 5, 2016 file photo Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures during a rally in Charleston, W.Va. Trump’s apparent lock on the Republican presidential nomination means advocates of large-scale transfers of federal lands to states in the West likely won’t find support in the White House regardless of who wins election this November. Advisers and the candidates’ prior statements indicate neither Trump nor Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders favor the wholesale transfers of federal lands. (AP Photo/Steve Helber,File)
(AP Photo/Steve Helber,File)

The Trump administration is examining land use planning procedures and other environmental reviews, keeping in line with its stated commitment to roll back what some consider burdensome requirements.

The Bureau of Land Management said on Monday it is requesting “ideas and input” on how the agency can make procedures and reviews timelier and less costly. The effort comes after President Trump’s March approval of a House Joint Resolution, which nullified the BLM’s Planning 2.0 rule.

The rule gave more power to citizens in approving larger projects on public lands, which includes more than 8 million acres in Colorado.

The Trump administration has sought to roll back several Obama-era environmental actions, including regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon and methane pollution, as well as federal regulatory authority over small bodies of water.

“The decisions made in land use plans and environmental reviews are fundamental to how public lands and resources are used for the benefit of all Americans,” said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “The Trump Administration and the Department of the Interior are committed to working with state and local governments, communities, Indian tribes, and other stakeholders as true partners to determine the best ways to accomplish this, now and into the future.”

Federal officials are working with state and local elected officials, including the Western Governors’ Association and the National Association of Counties, to engage and gather input. Comments can be taken at a BLM website.

“We are doing this because Secretary Zinke and President Trump both strongly believe that public engagement, especially at the local level, is a critical component of federal land management,” said BLM Director Michael Nedd. “We need and want input from our state and local partners as well as from the general public in this effort.”

A 21-day public input process began on Monday. Following the process, the BLM will prepare a report that will be released later this year.

Resource management plans provide a framework for land use authorization decisions on BLM-managed public lands, including those relating to subsurface federal minerals, according to the BLM.  Most land use authorization decisions are preceded by review under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Through the public NEPA process, the BLM analyzes the effects of proposed plans and land use authorization decisions and discloses them to the public.

The Trump administration review of land use planning procedures falls in line with several Republican efforts to hand back control to the states.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, successfully pushed a measure through the House Natural Resources Committee last week to prohibit the departments of Agriculture and the Interior from requiring the transfer of water rights as a condition of any land-use permit. The bill also requires that future directives from the departments be consistent with state water law.

Tipton said he became concerned over federal attempts to manipulate federal permit, lease and land management processes to circumvent state water law and “hijack” privately held water rights. He pointed to a U.S. Forest Service attempt to require a transfer of privately-held water rights to the federal government as a condition for granting permits on National Forest System lands.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Greeley, backed a measure that would designate the Bureau of Reclamation as the lead coordinating agency for water project permitting among state and federal governments on federal lands.

Buck points to the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a multi-county water storage effort that would impact much of northeastern Colorado. Buck said the project and others face delays because of burdens imposed by federal agencies. He hopes designating an agency to handle such requests would streamline the process.

The permitting of the NISP project has already cost Colorado communities over $15 million and has dragged on for over 13 years, Buck said.

“In Colorado, water is tough to come by, which makes water storage a necessity,” Buck said. “We need to streamline the water project permitting process so that future projects like NISP don’t take over a decade to win a permit.”