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RBC I As the comment period closes today on a plan that will determine the administration of more than 1.5 million acres of public lands in western Colorado, more than 500 hunters and anglers in the last week alone have requested a management approach that better conserves valuable big-game habitat while allowing some development of energy resources. Led by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the sportsmen are calling on the Bureau of Land Management to carefully regulate energy development, maintain public access and uphold hunting opportunities in a region known as the “mule deer factory.
Lands administered by the BLM’s White River Field Office, based in Meeker, Colo., will be overseen under the new resource management plan for the next 20 years. Under new development proposals, more than 16,000 new oil and gas wells could be drilled in the region, including in high-value habitat for elk and mule deer.
“Right now, the BLM has an opportunity to get it right,” said TRCP Field Representative Nick Payne. “Development of this scale will irretrievably change some of the finest elk and mule deer habitat in the world – and the best big-game hunting in Colorado. We’re calling on the BLM to ensure that this development is better balanced with sportsmen’s values in mind.”
Undesirable consequences of widespread energy development include fragmentation of prime big-game habitat, leading to reduced population numbers, diminished hunting opportunities and an overall poor hunting experience.
“None of the management alternatives currently presented in the new BLM draft management plan meets the state wildlife agency’s desired population objectives for mule deer,” said Ed Arnett, director of the TRCP Center for Responsible Energy Development. “If the habitat management does not match with state agency population goals, hunting opportunities will suffer in the long run. Sportsmen should be concerned about this possible outcome.”
“Fundamentally, sportsmen are asking the BLM to work collaboratively with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to support state deer and elk population objectives by safeguarding public lands habitat in the face of energy development,” concluded Payne. “As part of this approach, sportsmen want to see valuable hunting and fishing areas — places that provide intact habitat and a quality outdoor experience — maintained and conserved as backcountry conservation areas.”