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Why are the HD special?
The HD Mountains in Southwestern Colorado are little known, extremely important, and unfortunately sitting on top of coalbed methane reserves. For decades, fighting against oil and gas development has been a priority for the Alliance to protect the environmental, cultural, and wildlife significance of the HD Mountains.
Flanked on the east by Chimney Rock National Monument and overlaying Southern Ute Indian tribal lands to the south, an array of Puebloan and non-Puebloan Native American cultural sites are found throughout the HD Mountains.
The HDs are isolated and hard to access, enough so that 25,000 acres of the mountain range are formally designated as a Roadless Area. Home to a variety of low-elevation life zones, the HDs boast a variety of landscapes from old growth Ponderosa stands to grassy meadows.
The HDs are home to a diverse array of both plant and animal species. They provide critical year round and winter range for wildlife such as deer, elk, and migratory birds. Protecting the HDs is critical to protect the health of Southwest Colorado’s greater ecosystem.
The HDs are a unique low elevation mountain range east of Bayfield in southwestern Colorado. To the east, they are bounded by Chimney Rock National Monument with an array of other Puebloan and non-Puebloan Native American sites found throughout the range. They overlay Southern Ute Indian tribal lands to the south.
What’s up with the lease sale?
New lease sales for oil and gas development on the San Juan National Forest have been on hold for years as forest planners worked to complete a new Land and Resource Management Plan. Now that the plan is finalized, the oil and gas leasing engine is sputtering to life.
And wouldn’t you know it: after this long hiatus four of the first five parcels auctioned for drilling were the only four remaining unleased parcels in all of the HDs.
In early March 2016, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced the lease sales, giving the public 30 days to protest their decision. After winning a two-week extension to the protest period, on March 29, 2016, SJCA submitted a sale protest that included over 400 citizen signatures.
Unfortunately, the BLM denied SJCA’s protest and all parcels were sold at auction on May 12th. Even though these parcels were sold, our work is far from done. Before drilling can begin, the BLM must do more analysis. We’ll closely watch the process as well as keep tabs on the BLM and industry’s plans for possible pipelines and other oil and gas infrastructure. When there are opportunities for public involvement, you’ll be the first to know.
Funding and resources will go toward workforce re-training for plant and mine workers. Apprenticeships will be required for energy jobs in the state.
The bill directs up to 450 megawatts of replacement power to be built in San Juan County, an investment that could be worth about $400 million and that will replace the lost property-tax base for the community and its schools after the coal plant closes.
A minimum of $30 million will be provided for cleanup and remediation of San Juan Generating Station.