“A conservation group on Thursday released documents obtained from the Bureau of Land Management that suggest agency leadership directed the overhaul of the resources management plan proposal for the agency’s Uncompahgre Field Office.
The proposal unveiled last summer differs significantly from what BLM officials in Colorado previously had identified as their draft preferred alternative following a decade-long process. It has fewer environmental protections and reduced restrictions pertaining to oil and gas leasing and development. Gunnison, Ouray and San Miguel counties have formally protested it, as did the town of Paonia and citizen and conservation groups. U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Dan Gibbs, executive director of the state Department of Natural Resources, also have voiced concerns about the substantial changes between the earlier proposal and the latest one. Gibbs has said the current proposal appears to favor energy development and Bennet says it contradicts and undermines local input and engagement.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility says the documents it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show that agency leadership ignored the local input that went into the development of the draft alternative, and overruled BLM officials at the local level and career scientists. The group says the BLM’s actions run counter to its claim that it is decentralizing decisionmaking and undercut its rationale for its recent relocation of its national headquarters from Washington, D.C.”