U.S. plans to open millions of acres of public land to drilling, cattle

Cuts to federal land clash with Ute Mountain Ute tribe and Colorado conservation groups


By Emily Hayes, The Durango Herald

via The Journal (CO) - Feb. 7, 2020


The push for oil and gas development on Western public lands picked up momentum Thursday despite opposition from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Colorado conservation organizations and Colorado politicians such as Gov. Jared Polis.


President Donald Trump’s administration announced final plans Thursday to allow cattle grazing, mining, oil drilling and other development across a section of southeast Utah previously protected as national monuments.


With the plans, millions of acres of land that contain cultural artifacts, rock art and fossils are at risk.


But Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, said the land in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante don’t have a significant amount of oil and natural gas. In fact, the oil and gas industry has been “largely unscathed by national monument designations,” Sgamma told The Durango Herald.


The Western Energy Alliance’s only concern is that a future “keep it in the ground president” would use the Antiquities Act to protect the land, Sgamma said. The Antiquities Act classifies archaeological sites on public land as important public resources.


“It is hard to argue that a president can make national monuments with the wave of a wand” but can’t adjust the borders, Sgamma said.


Ranchers losing land


For local ranchers like James Snyder, opening up the public land for cattle grazing would keep the industry alive for new generations of ranchers. When private ground in the West is parceled into housing developments and subdivisions, the cost of grazing land increases. Some Colorado ranchers graze their cattle in neighboring Utah.


“With ranching, you can’t afford to pay that much, and BLM ground wasn’t pieced up like the rest of it,” Snyder told the Herald.


In Cortez, young farmers say there is no point in trying to raise cattle on land their family has worked for generations, Snyder said.


Older farmers can sell the land for to developers and retire comfortably.


“Lots of people want to live here, and I don’t blame them. This is some of the best places in the world to live,” Snyder said.


Voices of the tribes ignored ...


Implementation unlikely ...