New Suit Filed Challenging Trump’s “Energy Dominance” Agenda in Colorado
17th of Sep 2020
Advocates for the West is challenging the Trump Administration’s reckless land use plan for the Uncompahgre region of western Colorado in a new lawsuit. The plan opens vast areas – including the prized North Fork Valley – to oil and gas drilling and fails to protect wilderness-quality public lands, wildlife habitat and other valuable natural resources.
The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Uncompahgre plan is the result of political interference by the Trump Administration and embattled acting BLM Director William Perry Pendley to impose its “energy dominance” agenda on Colorado, no matter the cost. Internal documents reveal that Trump Administration officials at the national BLM office overruled local agency staff and ignored years of local public input in order to prioritize giveaways to the oil and gas industry.
“This plan brings to light the many ways the Trump Administration’s anti-conservation agenda will have a legacy effect on our public lands,” said Juli Slivka, Conservation Director at Wilderness Workshop. “These long-term management decisions go beyond providing access to the fossil fuel industry – they actively ensure the agency will not manage wilderness, wildlife and other natural values on our public lands for decades to come.”
The highly controversial final plan led to administrative protests being filed by the State of Colorado, Gunnison and San Miguel Counties, the Town of Paonia, local elected officials and area business owners. State Senator Kerry Donovan and State Representative Julie McCluskie requested that Interior Secretary David Bernhardt withdraw the plan and revise it to better protect the lands, air, water, and wildlife that power the resilient local economy of the North Fork Valley. Senator Michael Bennet has committed to working with the community on a path forward in the wake of the widely-denounced Trump decision.
“Our valley’s economy is powered by family farms, orchards, small businesses, and local ranchers. We insist that the federal government do better to protect our communities and our values, and we’re grateful that Senator Bennet agrees,” said Scott Braden, interim Executive Director of the Western Slope Conservation Center.
Communities in Colorado’s North Fork Valley rely on a growing economy centered on small farms and ranches that have long been wary of oil and gas development in the watershed. Locals fear that the pollution and industrialization of oil and gas development could harm the clean air and water, open space, and other values they are reliant upon. They engaged in the planning process, even creating a community alternative to protect these values, only to have their voices dismissed by Pendley’s BLM.
“William Perry Pendley’s BLM has failed to approve a multiple use plan for the Uncompahgre Field Office as their mission requires,” said Phil Hanceford, Conservation Director for Agency Policy and Planning at The Wilderness Society. “This plan prioritizes fossil energy extraction over all other uses and risks the wilderness character that makes Western Colorado’s rivers, mesas and forests so unique. Interior’s agenda is both deeply out of step with how Coloradans want to see their public lands managed and it’s out of step with what the law requires.”
Advocates for the West’s Staff Attorney Lizzy Potter and Senior Attorney Todd Tucci are bringing this case in the U.S. District of Colorado on behalf of Wilderness Workshop, The Wilderness Society, and Western Slope Conservation Center, who is a new client thanks to our ongoing partnership with Conservation Lands Foundation.
“When adopting a new management plan for this remarkable landscape, BLM prioritized oil and gas development over all other uses of our public lands and natural resources—particularly wilderness and other conservation values,” Lizzy Potter explained. “We filed suit on behalf of these community groups to hold BLM accountable for its violations of bedrock environmental laws.”