"There are places that are too special to develop," said Interior Secretary Sally JewellSarah (Sally) Margaret JewellBiden leans on Obama-era appointees on climate OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten key air pollution standards | Despite risks to polar bears, Trump pushes ahead with oil exploration in Arctic | Biden to champion climate action in 2021 OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA proposes reapproving uses of pesticide linked to brain damage in children | Hispanic caucus unhappy with transition team treatment of Lujan Grisham | Schwarzenegger backs Nichols to lead EPA MORE at a recent Denver event to announce a settlement on Colorado's Roan Plateau.
The Roan is one such place. This magnificent backcountry area features scenic waterfalls, canyons and aspen glades that come alive with color each fall. The Plateau is in the heart of what's been called Colorado's mule-deer factory, and its small streams hold unique populations of native cutthroat trout. It is key habitat for black bears, bald eagles, rare plants and more. The striking Roan Cliffs are the dominant feature of the landscape for many miles of the Colorado River corridor.
In the past, lands having these diverse values have been a source of debate and conflict. But the recent agreement forged among Roan stakeholders demonstrates that we can strike a responsible balance that both promotes energy development and conserves irreplaceable landscapes and wildlife habitat.
Production of natural gas from the neighboring lands had been underway for many years when the Bureau of Land Management offered the Roan Plateau leases for competitive sale. Bill Barrett Corporation and other companies recognized the potential of these leases, and the BLM lease sale set an onshore record for total receipts. Trout Unlimited and others were equally compelled to challenge the leasing decision to preserve the aforementioned outstanding natural resources on the Roan and protect their investment in stream restoration efforts that have been ongoing for 15 years.
So began the conflict that held both development and conservation in limbo for seven years.
The recent settlement begins a new chapter in the Roan story. Negotiations were built on respect for the values of each perspective, frank and open dialogue, and a shared recognition that a balanced solution was preferable to continued legal battles. The result is a balanced, pragmatic agreement that protects the most valued fish and wildlife habitats on the base and top of the plateau and reduces the intensity of development footprint. At the same time, industry gains certainty and predictability in accessing the lands with the greatest energy resource potential.
While every public lands discussion involves site-specific circumstances, we think this collaborative model can be applied more broadly to Western resource conflicts. The BLM, with Director Neil Kornze's leadership, has the management tools, including its new Master Leasing Plan program, to achieve balanced solutions for the West. It is imperative for all parties to engage, up front, in BLM's process with respect both for the importance of America's public lands for fish, wildlife, and recreation, and for the benefits of domestic energy development. In practice, this means application of greater precision when making leasing decisions to better identify lands that are both "too special to develop," and those with greatest potential to support our nation's energy needs.
Responsible energy development and preserving our natural heritage: the Roan agreement shows that, working together in good faith, we can have both.
Zavadil is senior vice president of government and regulatory affairs for Bill Barrett Corporation. Nickum is executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited.