You are on page 1of 3

STATE OF COLORADO

OFFICE OF THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Department of Natural Resources 1313 Sherman Street, Room 718 Denver, Colorado 80203 Phone: (303) 866-3311 Fax: (303) 866-2115

dnr.state.co.us

October 21, 2013 U.S. Bureau of Land Management Director (210) Attn: Brenda Hudgens-Williams 20 M Street SE, Room 2134LM Washington, D.C. 20003 RE: Final San Juan National Forest and Proposed Tres Rios Field Office Land and Resource Management Plan (together referred to as the LRMP) and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).

John W. Hickenlooper Governor Mike King Executive Director

Dear Director Kornze: The Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR) submits this document as part of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) protest process for the LRMP/FEIS. DNR is committed to working collaboratively with both the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), as co-lead agencies in development of this LRMP and FEIS. The deadline for filing a protest to apprise the BLM of ongoing issues and concerns to consider before issuing a Record of Decision is October 21, 2013. Had the federal government not been forced to shut down for the two weeks prior to the deadline for lodging any protest, DNR would have actively sought to address the issues and concerns identified herein before and/or in lieu of submitting any protest. We understand that BLM is considering an extension to this protest period in light of the federal government shutdown and appreciate any additional time to discuss our concerns. Since formal notification of any such extension has not yet been provided, we are filing this protest in order to preserve our administrative remedies. With additional time, and now that the federal agencies are back to full staff capacity, DNR is ready and willing to work with the BLM and USFS to resolve these and other matters. Should we be able to resolve satisfactorily the issues raised herein, along with any other issues that arise between now and the close of an extended protest period, we would look to rescind the protest as appropriate. DNR’s protest focuses on issues relating to two of our Divisions: the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) and the Division of Parks and Wildlife (CPW). DNR submitted a package of comments on the Draft LRMP and FEIS from both divisions on April 11, 2008. Please find a copy of these comments attached.

Board of Land Commissioners ● Division of Reclamation, Mining & Safety ● Colorado Geological Survey Oil & Gas Conservation Commission ● Water Conservation Board ● Division of Forestry Division of Water Resources ● Division of Parks and Wildlife

On behalf of these two divisions, we raise the following issues: 1) Minimum stream flows and reservoir elevation standards: Sections 2.5.18(a)-(d) and 2.5.22-23 of the Final LRMP identify standards for minimum stream flow and minimum reservoir levels that run the risk of conflicting with state water law and the Memorandum of Understanding between the BLM and DNR regarding management of water resources on BLM managed land in Colorado (“BLM MOU”). See, BLM-MOU-CO-545. We recommend removing the LRMP provisions that establish standards for minimum stream flow and minimum reservoir levels identified in LRMP Sections 2.5.18(a)-(d) and 2.5.22-23, deleting the words “or should occur” from LRMP Section 2.5.18, and working with the CWCB to address any of BLM’s minimum stream flow needs. DNR would prefer the BLM change the flow requirements from mandatory “standards” to “guidelines,” as that is how they were contained in the Draft LRMP. 2) Suitability Determinations under Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA): Section 3.23 of the FEIS and Section 3.9 of the LRMP document determinations of suitability under the WSRA that overlook or ignore the extensive collaborative stakeholder efforts, including the River Protection Workgroup, the Dolores River Dialogue and the Lower Dolores Plan Working Group. These have been created to inform the suitability analysis and/or develop alternatives to WSRA suitability determinations. These groups have made substantial and demonstrable progress towards locally driven consensus solutions for resource protection. We recommend including a “re-opener” provision to initiate a plan amendment to accommodate recommendations from the stakeholder groups. 3) Lease Stipulations for Wildlife Resources: Appendix H of the Final LRMP/FEIS contains a variety of detailed lease stipulations to protect wildlife resources during federal mineral development stipulations, and includes explicit criteria outlining when exceptions, modifications, and waivers may be granted on USFS lands. These explicit criteria do not apply to BLM lands, and will only be considered at the discretion of the BLM’s Authorized Officer. BLM’s discretion makes it difficult for DNR to evaluate the effectiveness of stipulations for protecting wildlife resources during development on BLM lands. We recommend that BLM adopt the explicit exception, waiver and modification criteria identified in Appendix H for USFS lands as a way to provide greater certainty when assessing potential impacts of plan implementation on wildlife, including species like Gunnison Sage Grouse (GuSG), desert bighorn, and mule deer. 4) Gunnison Sage Grouse: Section 3.3 of the FEIS states that LRMP implementation “may affect, is likely to adversely affect” GuSG. Currently only 13% of the federal minerals underlying the San Miguel Basin GuSG subpopulation are leased. DNR is concerned that the LRMP proposes leasing the remainder with a No Surface Occupancy stipulation that is subject to exceptions, modifications and waivers at BLM’s discretion. We believe that selecting the “no lease option” for new leases in GuSG occupied and unoccupied habitat, or adopting the exceptions, modifications and waivers criteria identified in Appendix H for GuSG stipulations could help achieve a “not likely to adversely affect” determination for GuSG. 5) Cortez and Durango Special Recreation Management Areas (SRMA): The Final LRMP describes an increase in the size of BLM’s Cortez SRMA by nearly 4,000 acres, and outlines a conditionsbased seasonal winter closure for both the Durango and Cortez SRMAs to protect winter range and winter concentration areas for elk and mule deer herds. With the addition of these lands, the Cortez SRMA covers all BLM lands within mule deer critical winter range north of U.S. Highway 160 between Cortez and Mancos. This is an important wintering area and migratory corridor for mule deer. DNR is concerned that SRMA designation
2

makes recreation management the predominate focus of land management activities in these areas and is likely to displace mule deer populations. A conditions-based closure is not as protective for mule deer as “hard date” seasonal closures. DNR recommends replacing the conditions-based closure for these lands with a firm December 1 – April 30 closure, using only the Cortez SRMA area identified in the Draft EIS, and/or allocating a portion of the Cortez SRMA lands as a Wildlife Habitat Area for big game winter use. We hope to have additional time to identify with the BLM agreeable solutions to these issues, and any others not identified above. I appreciate the BLM’s continuing efforts to work with the State to manage the use of Colorado’s natural resources and look forward to finding mutually beneficial and agreeable solutions to these matters.

Sincerely,

Mike King, Executive Director Colorado Department of Natural Resources

ENCLOSURE

CC:

John Mehlhoff, BLM Colorado Connie Clementson, BLM Tres Rios Field Office Dan Jiron, USFS Rocky Mountain Region Mark Stiles, San Juan National Forest

3