Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper last week sent letters to the Colorado Bureau of Land Management expressing concerns with the pending December 2018 oil and gas lease sales and urging the agency to defer the remaining parcels that have been requested for deferral by the state and local communities.
In the letters, Bennet and Hickenlooper reiterated local concerns from the State of Colorado, the Town of Paonia and Gunnison County, where citizens and agricultural organizations have expressed opposition to leasing in valued landscapes near their communities. Several lease parcels are located in Greater sage grouse habitat or would affect big game winter range and migration corridors. There are also concerns that the lease sales put water supplies, air quality, and existing economic opportunities at risk, particularly in Colorado's North Fork Valley.
Bennet's letter supported creating a fair process for communities to provide recommendations on this sale and future lease sales.
"Colorado has a long and proud history of responsible energy development on public lands, balanced with other uses such as agriculture and outdoor recreation," Bennet wrote in his letter. "To balance energy development with agricultural and ecological resources in Colorado, we believe it is incumbent on the BLM to facilitate public participation and carefully weigh state and local input when considering oil and gas lease sales."
Hickenlooper's letter also raised concern with changes over the public comment opportunities and with the sale of leases in key wildlife corridors.
"We continue to ask for the deferral of those parcels in sensitive areas particularly those protecting wildlife corridors, where the public has been heavily engaged in pending land use plans, and where there is significant local opposition to the leases being offered in the first place."