**Crossposted at Piceance.Org**
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency of the U.S. Department of Interior recently announced its intent to lease lands scattered among the small family farms, wineries, towns and residences of Colorado’s North Fork valley, on February 14, for oil and gas development. The sudden move blind-sided residents who have been overwhelmingly opposed to the lease sale, but had hoped they could work with the agency going forward after an earlier sale was deferred.
Now sources in the North Fork show that BLM’s plans include leasing the Union Pacific railroad track, a railroad trestle across the North Fork river, and the river itself.
(Link to blog with Google Screengrab of lease, not sure how to resize images from the web).
The grey in the overlay, which shows the parcel the BLM is preparing for lease, indicates that the land is private. But the minerals are public, and administered by the BLM. However, public input is of little measure to the Colorado State Office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
This public agency does not overly rely on public feedback regarding how the public wants its public resources managed. This is obvious in that the agency is mostly ignoring what the vast majority of the public–including businesses, associations, local governments, and stakeholders–told it to do. That process played out last winter–over another holiday season that the BLM dropped this on the local community–and culminated in the leases being withdrawn last May.
Now the BLM has dropped a new turkey on the populace, just in time for Thanksgiving–only this time there is no request for public comment. This time its straight to protest and the clock is ticking: December 17.
BLM’s EA does note in the 280+ page Environmental Assessment that federal lands might include rights-of-way, including rail, but it does not seem to indicate that a private surface/split estate parcel includes these features, which are significant features to the community affected by a federal action: in this case a long-established railroad, trestle, and county road.
No word on if Union Pacific railroad already knows they might have to watch out for roughnecks and rigs on the rails, when hauling that load of coal out from the three mines up valley (that employ 1,000 people). Meanwhile BLM seems adamant that it made a decision–back in the 1980s–and its sticking to that.
And that feels a bit like getting railroaded.