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Senator seeks curbs on drilling

December 22, 2007|From the Associated Press

DENVER — Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) said Friday that he would push for measures to protect parts of the Roan Plateau and ensure that Colorado got its share of revenue from energy development on the western Colorado landmark.

His announcement came one day after Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. submitted comments to federal land managers seeking changes to a 20-year management plan and protection for more of the plateau from direct gas drilling.

The Roan Plateau has become a battleground in the push for more domestic energy production because it's rich in natural gas and rich in wildlife and ecological diversity. The Interior Department had given Ritter, who took office in January, time to study the plan issued in June.

"I appreciate the governor and the Department of Natural Resources taking the time over the last 120 days to help find a more thoughtful way forward in the development of the gas resource underneath the Roan Plateau, but more needs to be done," Salazar said.

Ritter and state natural resources chief Harris Sherman have asked the Bureau of Land Management to increase the federal land on the Roan Plateau that is designated as "areas of critical environmental concern" to 36,000 acres from the 21,000 acres in the federal plan.

The Roan Plateau is home to the state's largest deer and elk herds, mountain lions, peregrine falcons, bears, rare plants and genetically pure native cutthroat trout dating to the last ice age.

A final decision on the environmentally sensitive areas is pending. The bureau has recommended no ground disturbance in those areas, which would require extracting the gas offsite by setting up a drilling rig elsewhere and angling the bit underground. Salazar said he will propose rules banning exemptions.

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