Joint effort may reopen angler access

April 7, 2009

Mountain Mail

by Paul Goetz
Mail News Editor

A joint effort that may reopen a portion of road used by anglers was endorsed by Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area task force members during their regular meeting Thursday.

The road in question is a quarter mile section on the north side of the Arkansas River near Stockyard Bridge.

It was closed following a three year travel management plan process that ended with implementation March 5.

Collegiate Peaks Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Arkansas Valley Audubon Society may adopt the road to allow for environmental education and access.

In exchange the Bureau of Land Management would reopen the road.

Whether the BLM reopens the road will ultimately be the decision of Roy Masinton, Royal Gorge Field Office Manager.

Bureau of Land Misuse

November 14, 2007

Drilling on Roan could negatively affect wildlife

Trout Unlimited is concerned that “development could result in impacts that would severely harm or even wipe out the sensitive populations of Colorado River cutthroat trout on the Roan,” said Corey Fisher, energy field coordinator for Trout Unlimited.    

The Daily Sentinel
Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bruce Gordon banked his small plane and stared down at a line of drill pads marching across the top of the Roan Plateau. Gordon’s attention was fixed at the sight of the six scars on the plateau’s winter-bare landscape, an umbilical road tying them together like knots on a rope, each one edging along an unnamed ridge toward the westernmost edge of the Naval Oil Shale Reserve.

“I can’t believe it,” said Gordon, the lead pilot and president of EcoFlight, a wildlands conservation group based in Aspen. “I flew over here earlier this summer and there’s so much more development now. It’s like a land rush.”

Gordon was leading one of his group’s semi-regular trips across the Roan Plateau, giving various public groups the rare opportunity to see first-hand the level of development happening up there.

As energy development continues to ravage parts of western Colorado, and in particular creep closer to the still-unmarked top of the Roan Plateau, more voices are expressing opposition to the Bureau of Land Management’s energy leasing policies.

“The BLM is becoming a single-use agency,” said Ron Velarde, northwest region manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. “I don’t blame the energy companies, I blame the BLM for letting this happen on our public lands.”

Trout Unlimited is concerned that “development could result in impacts that would severely harm or even wipe out the sensitive populations of Colorado River cutthroat trout on the Roan,” said Corey Fisher, energy field coordinator for Trout Unlimited. He quoted a BLM analysis that said effects could be irreversible, “especially those that eliminate genetically unique resources … such as genetically pure Colorado River cutthroat trout.”

While most of the drilling around and on the Roan Plateau is occurring on private land, some is being done on public lands around the base of the plateau. Some interests have written off the bottom of the cliffs as a quasi-sacrifice zone to energy development, but the DOW is quick to differ.

“The base of the plateau is critical (big game) winter range,” DOW spokesman Randy Hampton told Daily Sentinel reporter Bobby Magill. “If (the energy companies) hammer the bottom, there won’t be any wildlife on top.”

Still, much of the focus now is on preserving what little unmarred habitat remains on the top of the plateau. The federal lands up there haven’t yet been leased, although that may occur as soon as late next summer.

Wildlife managers, hunters, anglers and conservationists all know that once the BLM opens the plateau to drilling, the effects from development will forever change the Roan Plateau.

The best option, obviously, would be to disallow any energy development in the still untouched parts of the Roan, but that’s unlikely to happen.

What critics of the drilling would like to see is moderation, a slow staging of the development so effects could be properly addressed. Stipulations and restrictions could address such problems as controlling runoff, habitat fragmentation, and loss of public access before they happen.

And, Velarde emphasized, these are public lands, no matter how often that point is overlooked by pro-development interests.

However, once the development begins, the constant traffic, noise and disturbance compromise wildlife and recreational uses to where the land becomes a industrial zone and little else.

Part of the 73,600 acres of federal land on the plateau won’t be developed, said BLM spokesman David Boyd. Some of it is too steep or in riparian areas and some of it is managed with NSO (no surface occupancy) restrictions.

“Nothing on the top of the plateau is closed to leasing but a little less than half of it is NSO,” Boyd said. That means in order to extract the gas, a company has to use off-site directional drilling.

Other restrictions Boyd listed from the BLM’s Roan management plan include “staging” the development along the ridge lines and making sure one well pad is finished and reclamation is under way before another pad can be started.

Of the leasable federal lands, approximately 34,758 acres, only 1 percent can be disturbed at any one time, Boyd said.

“We think most of the development will be accessible by existing roads but some of the roads probably will have to be improved,” Boyd said. “We think this will motivate them to reclaim things more quickly.”

But it’s the cumulative effects that cause the most concern for sportsmen and conservationists.

It’s long-lasting effects on water, wildlife and air quality. A clear day is rare in western Garfield County because of the dusty haze from constant traffic on gravel and dirt roads. A glance last week at upper Parachute Creek revealed clouds of dust reminiscent of nuclear bomb tests 50 years ago.

Uncontrolled runoff from well pads and roads could damage or destroy isolated populations of cutthroat trout, especially if development reaches down the sides of the ridges.

“The key is to protect the watersheds from ridge top to ridge top,” Fisher said. “Gas development (currently) is not precluded in headwaters of the (cutthroat) stream reaches.”

Velarde said the 1 percent disturbance limit and requiring mitigation on pads before others are built might soothe some of the DOW’s concerns.

“But if they are able to drill all over the Roan Plateau, we have problems,” he said.

A provision introduced by Reps. Mark Udall and John Salazar in the House-approved version of the 2007 Energy Bill includes NSO restrictions across the top of the plateau while allowing off-site (directional) drilling to tap the resources below.

As Gordon’s small plane flew across the plateau’s well-drilled south face, his guests looked down on a couple of new, biggie-sized well pads at the base of the cliffs, where two rigs were working side-by-side. Someone remembered that Williams Energy RMT recently announced its plans to start cluster drilling.

Gordon sighed and headed his plane for home.

“It’s a cluster all right,” he observed.

Wildlife Managers Concerned About ATV Use

September 28, 2007

(AP) St. Paul A conservation group released a national survey of state wildlife and fisheries managers showing that many of them believe all-terrain vehicles destroy habitat and disrupt outings for hunters and anglers.

The Izaak Walton League of America, which released the report Thursday, also said those managers indicated that more enforcement was needed. The group called on Congress to look into the issue.

“Off-road vehicles are important to many people’s lifestyles both for work and recreation, including many Izaak Walton League members who ride them responsibly everyday in states across the country,” said Kevin Proescholdt, director of the national group’s Wilderness and Public Lands Program. “However, our survey of agency managers clearly indicates a reckless contingent of riders is harming fish and wildlife habitat and ruining hunting and fishing experiences for many people.”

The survey, conducted in July and August, contacted each of the 50 state wildlife managers and each of the 50 state fisheries managers. A total of 34 agencies, representing 27 different states, responded.

About 83 percent of the wildlife managers who responded to the survey said they have seen “resource damage to wildlife habitat” from those vehicles. About 72 percent cited “disruption of hunters during hunting season” as another impact. About 60 percent agreed or strongly agreed that the machines have a negative effect on hunting and fishing and those habitats in their states.

Who’ll call shots on south slope?

September 27, 2007

Access group fears role may be limited

Fishing the reservoirs was one reason Jim Williams, a member of Trout Unlimited, signed up for the group.
“I think we may have to revise the whole policy,” he said.



September 27, 2007 – 12:14AM

The question at the first meeting of WAAG was who’s wagging whom?

WAAG is the Watershed Access Advisory Group, appointed by Colorado Springs Utilities to make recommendations on how to regulate recreation in the long-forbidden south slope watershed. But would Utilities call the shots, or would the people?

“I don’t have a problem with calling the group WAAG, just as long as it isn’t ambiguous who is the dog and who is the tail,” member and avid hiker Eric Swab said Wednesday at the group’s meeting.

It was the start of a twoyear process to open a set of seven reservoirs on the south side of Pikes Peak to the public while ensuring the long-term safety of the water supply. The group expects to submit a plan to the Colorado Springs City Council in August 2009. There is no timeline for when hikers could hit the trail.

The 45,000-acre south slope has been closed to the public since 1913. For almost as long, locals have lobbied unsuccessfully to gain access. Robert Ormes, the pioneer of local hiking, tried for decades, then adopted a motto he called the Ormes Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those we trespass against.”

Colorado Springs has gradually opened a number of reservoirs to the public without incident, but has repeatedly balked at opening the South Slope, even after hinting it would open it twice.

WAAG was formed after heated watershed access meetings last winter in which Colorado Springs Utilities made an about-face after saying repeatedly it would not consider opening the south slope.

Wednesday, members of the newly formed group, made up almost entirely of hikers, bikers,
fishermen and equestrians, made it clear they wanted to be the lead dog.

A mission statement drawn up by Utilities said the group should focus on creating four trails, including one that already exists and has been used openly for a century, and one that is 30 yards long. Several in the group immediately said the mission was too limited.

“Are we talking about a few trails, or are we talking about access to the whole watershed?” asked Friends of the Peak president Mary Burger.

The mission statement also said motorized recreation, hunting and fishing would not be considered.

Fishing the reservoirs was one reason Jim Williams, a member of Trout Unlimited, signed up for the group.

“I think we may have to revise the whole policy,” he said.

Utilities staff assured them it was only a draft, and “everything is still on the table.”

“We need to strive for a balance though – today’s access versus tomorrow’s water,” said Scott Campbell, Utilities director of operations.

Rebuttal aimed at misinformed

September 5, 2007

By Charlie Meyers
Denver Post Outdoors Editor

Article Last Updated: 09/04/2007 10:54:03 PM MDT

It’s not often that an outdoor column is spawned by the editorial pages, particularly where it involves a letter to the editor.

In this case, inspiration came in response to last week’s musings of a partially misguided soul named Marcy Anne Roeder of Nederland. Ms. Roeder kicked off squarely enough, defending the contributions of nonconsuming watchers to the welfare of wildlife.

Not satisfied, she then wandered onto the shaky ground that so often swallows the logic of those who harbor – overtly or not – resentment toward hunting and fishing.

“I don’t contribute to Ducks Unlimited or the National Wildlife Federation, which work primarily to expand populations of ‘game’ animals that hunters like to kill.”

Then the earth really begins to tremble.

“I spend weekends maintaining hiking trails and improving animal habitat (which includes taking down unsightly deer platforms and duck blinds and removing animal carcasses that hunters leave in the woods).”

Oh, my. What a woman. As one who wanders the woods regularly both in and out of hunting season, I can’t recall finding an animal carcass that hadn’t been well-masticated by a predator, most likely a mountain lion. How Ms. Roeder determines that all these carcasses she removes (she also must be exceptionally strong) have been “left by hunters” is beyond me.

Such shallow vitriol has become the misinformed mantra of those who allow a hatred of hunting to cloud the realities of the management of wildlife and who truly contributes most to its welfare.

Roeder’s disdainful mention of Ducks Unlimited is particularly worthy of rebuttal. Coincidentally, her letter came in concert with a salute to the wetlands conservation organization on the front page of USA Today.

In conjunction with its 25th anniversary, the newspaper recognizes what it determines to be the nation’s top 25 charities. Not incidentally, Ducks Unlimited is the first mentioned – scarcely surprising when one considers that it converts an astonishing 86 percent of contributions to actual on-the-ground wetlands restoration. DU projects benefit not only the waterfowl that hunter/contributors pursue, but hundreds of other nongame wildlife species.

So it is with all other hunting and fishing conservation organizations: Trout Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation and Pheasants Forever, to name a few. Members collectively contribute hundreds of millions of dollars that not only directly preserve habitat, but finance effective campaigns against destructive development.

But, alas, they never seem to find the money or time to remove animal carcasses.

Those who harbor hatred for hunting make much of their eagerness to contribute to wildlife. Statistics don’t bear this out. For example, the inauguration of the Colorado Habitat Stamp last year was hailed as an opportunity for wildlife watchers and the like to subscribe to various Division of Wildlife environmental initiatives.

During 2006, the sale of 665,608 stamps netted almost $3.4 million. Nonlicense buyers – those like Ms. Roeder – purchased just 4,902 stamps and spent $34,115, a smidgen over 1 percent of the total. It appears the nonlicense percentage will increase slightly in 2007, but scarcely enough to reflect this claim of undying dedication to wildlife.

Maybe this reluctance is because none of the money will be spent to tear down duck blinds.

Groups launch ads for ban on Roan drilling

September 5, 2007

By The Associated Press

DENVER | With Congress back in session, groups opposed to gas drilling on top of the Roan Plateau were ready to launch a TV ad backing a provision in the federal energy bill to bar development on public land atop the western Colorado landmark.

The 30-second spot was set to start airing on western Colorado television and cable stations Wednesday, Sept. 5. The ad, paid for by the Colorado Environmental Coalition, thanks Colorado Reps. Mark Udall and John Salazar, both Democrats, for sponsoring an amendment in the House version of the energy bill that would bar energy development on federal land on the plateau’s top.

The Senate didn’t include the provision, which will be part of the discussion as Congress reconciles the differences between the two chambers’ versions.

“Thanks to Congressmen John Salazar and Mark Udall, we’re on track to protecting the Roan for generations to come,” the spot’s narrator says.

The ad features a family from Glenwood Springs, Ken Neubecker of the Colorado chapter of Trout Unlimited and Silt Mayor Pro Tem Tod Tibbetts.

“Protecting the Roan Plateau means our economy and quality of life stay in balance,” the narrator says.

A plan approved by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in June would open some of the 73,602 acres of federal land on and around the plateau to oil and gas development. The plan, issued after about six years of study, hearings and comments, projects 193 well pads and 1,570 wells over 20 years, including 13 pads and 210 wells on top.

There’s already drilling on private land on top of the plateau about 180 miles west of Denver.

Energy industry officials say the plan is the most restrictive ever issued by the BLM. It calls for drilling to be done in stages, limiting disturbance to 1 percent of the federal land at any time, and no disturbance of the surface in other areas.

But environmentalists, hunters, anglers and area residents say the energy development would endanger the millions of dollars communities reap from hunting, fishing and recreation on the Roan Plateau. Some critics of drilling on top say improving technology will allow companies to reach the gas from the bottom while others argue against any more development on federal land around the Roan because the bottom is crucial winter range for elk and mule deer.

Curves ahead in roadless debate

September 4, 2007

“The state told us they essentially wanted to move forward with a very protective rule that would safeguard roadless area values and character,” said Chris Wood of Trout Unlimited, a member of the Roadless Area Conservation National Committee, which reviews each state’s roadless petition and recommends to the USDA whether to accept or reject the state’s desires for the fate of its roadless areas.

By BOBBY MAGILL The Daily Sentinel

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Another round of wrangling over roadless areas is in store for Colorado.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved how Colorado wants some of its most pristine wildlands to be managed in the event a federal court ruling protecting 58 million acres from development is ever overturned.

Colorado has about 4 million acres of roadless areas in its national forests. The bipartisan Colorado Roadless Area Review Task Force has debated the fate of those areas for the past year.

The task force, and later Gov. Bill Ritter, recommended that most of that land be protected from road building and other development, with some exceptions. Those roadless areas include swaths of land on the Uncompahgre Plateau, Battlement Mesa and the Flat Tops and other areas throughout western and central Colorado.

The task force’s final recommendations were accepted with some modifications by the USDA this past week. The next step is for the government to create a rule for managing Colorado’s roadless areas, a planning and public comment process that could take more than a year.

A Colorado roadless rule would turn out to be unnecessary should a federal court decision protecting all the nation’s roadless areas withstand legal challenges and not be overturned by a higher court. The court decision upheld then-President Bill Clinton’s roadless rule for the 58 million acres nationwide.

“The state told us they essentially wanted to move forward with a very protective rule that would safeguard roadless area values and character,” said Chris Wood of Trout Unlimited, a member of the Roadless Area Conservation National Committee, which reviews each state’s roadless petition and recommends to the USDA whether to accept or reject the state’s desires for the fate of its roadless areas.

Trout Unlimited supports the Clinton roadless rule “100 percent,” Wood said.

Former Roadless Task Force member Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, called the USDA’s decision to accept Colorado’s roadless petition “a rare bipartisan win.”

Penry credited former Gov. Bill Owens for allowing Coloradans to speak out about roadless areas when it would have been just as easy to ditch the Clinton rule altogether. Penry also credited Ritter for sticking with the task force’s recommendations despite “strident voices” in the environmental community.

Former task force member Steve Smith, assistant regional director of the Wilderness Society, said roadless areas should remain protected by the Clinton rule.

But, he said, “I think any effort that leads toward enduring protection for roadless areas is a good thing.”