The county believes it has a simple solution: Ban surface development in the biking area. And avoid a master leasing plan that would overregulate eastern Montezuma County and western La Plata County.
“We’re requesting the BLM add an amendment for No Surface Occupancy on Phil’s World,” Montezuma County commissioner Larry Don Suckla recently told Connie Clementson, Tres Rios field manager for the Bureau of Land Management.
A No Surface Occupancy is a BLM land-use stipulation that prohibits oil and gas development from atop public land, but allows development beneath it if drilling is done from adjacent land.
Clementson responded that if a master leasing plan went forward it could address that, but Suckla insisted on amending the BLM’s Resource Management Plan (RMP) instead.
“I’ll communicate your request” to the agency, Clementson said.
The exchange highlights the rift between the BLM and the county regarding a proposal to regulate oil and gas beyond the rules outlined in the RMP, passed in 2015.
In a March 28 letter to BLM state director Ruth Welch, commissioners outlined their opposition to a master leasing plan and their No Surface Occupancy solution.
“The RMP already provides an extremely high level of protection for both BLM parcels and private parcels with federal minerals,” the letter states. “Energy development has coexisted with all other uses in our County since the first well was drilled in 1921, and the RMP already provides the path forward to ensure continued compatibility in the future.”
The letter claims environmentalists want an additional leasing plan “to withdraw more land from leasing.” The letter claims that “could be devastating to our economy.”
To appease constituents, commissioners propose that the BLM’s Resource Management Plan be amended to overlay a No Surface Occupancy on the popular Phil’s World biking area and its proposed expansion.
“This would satisfy the call to protect special recreational resources important to our local economy and quality of life,” the letter concludes.
The BLM’s citizen board, the Southwest Resource Advisory Committee, is conducting a review on whether to recommend to the BLM that an MLP go forward or not. The BLM will have the final decision.