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RAC Delays Decision on BLM Master Leasing Plan

Gail Binkly
Pete Eschallier, co-owner of Kokopelli Bike and Board, presents a letter in support of a master leasing plan

An advisory committee to the Bureau of Land Management finished a day-long meeting Friday without making a decision on whether to recommend moving forward with a master leasing plan.

The BLM’s Tres Rios Field Office had posed the idea of crafting a plan to more thoroughly examine and mitigate oil and gas impacts on public lands in western La Plata County and much of Montezuma County. Meeting in Mancos, the Southwest Resource Advisory Council, or RAC, voiced largely negative views about such a plan. A special sub-group of the RAC had studied the issue and invited public input, the vast majority of which favored more regulation. But Dolores County Commissioner and RAC member Ernie Williams said energy development is needed. He said, “We all drove here and we all turn on the lights.” RAC members Eric Sanford and James Dietrich agreed, saying the BLM’s over-arching resource management plan adequately addresses oil and gas. Sanford said he had dismissed much of the public input because it wasn’t specific enough. However, during public comment Friday, Kokopelli bike shop co-owner Pete Eschallier presented a letter signed by 25 local businesses supporting a master leasing plan, and several other citizens insisted it was needed. The RAC intends to meet again to consider a resolution recommending more planning for oil and gas, though not necessarily a master leasing plan. The final decision, though, is the BLM’s.

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal, and was the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.
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