Feds pull drilling from Lone Mesa

State park gets deferral, but private minerals exist

Courtesy Photo/Al Schneider

Packera mancosana, a plant discovered by local amateur botanists Al and Betty Schneider in 2011, is a member of the sunflower family and is only found in Lone Mesa State Park. Enlargephoto

Courtesy Photo/Al Schneider Packera mancosana, a plant discovered by local amateur botanists Al and Betty Schneider in 2011, is a member of the sunflower family and is only found in Lone Mesa State Park.

The Tres Rios BLM office has elected to defer portions of proposed oil and gas leases that are within Lone Mesa State Park north of Dolores.

About 1,000 acres from three parcels within the park were taken out of the March 9 lease sale, confirmed BLM planner Ryan Joyner.

“The state office made the decision to defer portions of the leases within the park after working more closely with Colorado Parks and Wildlife,” he said.

The 11,760-acre nature preserve 23 miles north of Dolores is heralded as a top big game hunting preserve.

The park is closed to the general public pending a management plan, but is open to limited hunting during the season.

Park manager Scot Elder applauded the decision.

“We are very pleased and appreciate BLM’s cooperation in this case and hope in continues into the future,” he said.

Joyner said the deferral is more in line with how state wildlife areas are managed, which typically have a no-surface occupancy stipulation for oil and gas development.

“We recognize state parks are managed in the same was as wildlife areas,” he said.

CPW and Division of Wildlife advocated for making the state park ineligible for oil and gas leasing during the comment period for the recently approved BLM resource management plan.

But the request was not granted. At the time of the RMP planning, Colorado Division of Wildlife and Colorado State Parks were combining into one agency, which complicated the issue.

Elder says an RMP plan amendment prohibiting federal oil and gas leasing on the park would be ideal, and would avoid year-to-year deferral requests. Deferrals mean the leases could come back up for lease in the future.

There is one capped well within Lone Mesa State Park, Elder said. And private minerals underly a small section of the state park-owned surface.

“Those private minerals could be developed some day, and the park would negotiate a surface use agreement to limit impacts,” Elder said.

The BLM will hold the lease sale online via www.energynet.com. Bidding will begin at 9 a.m. Mountain time. The BLM will offer one parcel in Archuleta County, two parcels in Dolores County, one in Montezuma County and 11 in San Miguel County.

In Montezuma County, Parcel 7789 will be available for lease. It is on private land on Haycamp Mesa off Forest Road 556, south of the Dolores River and Taylor Mesa. The parcel is split estate, meaning that the surface is private, but the minerals are owned by the federal government, which leases them for development through the BLM.

In San Miguel County, 11 parcels are proposed, including two in Disappointment Valley and Big Gypsum Valley, eight west of Miromonte Reservoir, and one north of Morrison Creek.

San Miguel County commissioners have protested lease sales due to environmental risks.

“We are very concerned that this lease sale is premature because of several ongoing planning amendment processes that are giving attention to and analyzing new information for Gunnison sage grouse and areas that meet the Areas of Critical Environmental Concern criteria,” wrote the county in a December letter to BLM.

jmimiaga@the-journal.com

Cortez Journal/Jim Mimiaga

In the distance, Lone Mesa State Park beckons visitors. However, the park is closed to the general public pending a development plan and funding. Enlargephoto

Cortez Journal/Jim Mimiaga In the distance, Lone Mesa State Park beckons visitors. However, the park is closed to the general public pending a development plan and funding.

Courtesy photo

Steve McDaniels poses with his elk harvested out of Lone Mesa State Park in 2014. The park north of Dolores is becoming a popular hunting destination. Enlargephoto

Courtesy photo Steve McDaniels poses with his elk harvested out of Lone Mesa State Park in 2014. The park north of Dolores is becoming a popular hunting destination.

Journal/ Sam Green

Al Schneider displays the new plant he discovered on Lone Mesa in 2011. Enlargephoto

Journal/ Sam Green Al Schneider displays the new plant he discovered on Lone Mesa in 2011.