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Sportsmen push to defer North Fork leases

DENVER – Sportsmen’s groups are stepping up pressure on the Colorado Bureau of Land Management to withdraw proposed oil and gas leases along the North Fork of the Gunnison River, in trout fisheries and big game habitat.

The letter sent Monday to state BLM Director Helen Hankins seeks the deferral of leases on nearly 20,000 acres to be offered in a Feb. 14 sale. Several of the groups have also formally protested the proposed leases in western Colorado between Hotchkiss and Paonia Reservoir.

``As sportsmen, we don’t oppose energy development on public lands, but it should be done in a way that does the least harm to our fish, wildlife and recreational resources,’’ said Bob Meulengracht of Trout Unlimited.

It is not responsible to use a 23-year-old resource management plan to decide where oil and gas development should occur, added Meulengracht, the Colorado coordinator for Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development.

The BLM’s Uncompahgre Field Office is updating the plan, which will map out development and the steps needed to protect fish, wildlife and other resources.

``We’re a bit alarmed by the precedent being set, whereby energy leases are issued while a resource management plan is being updated. It seems like the BLM is jumping the gun here,’’ said Timothy Brass, Southern Rockies Coordinator for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.  ``We expect our federal land managers to solicit the input of hunters and anglers, and we expect that they use the best available science.’’

Signing onto the letter were Trout Unlimited; Colorado Trout Unlimited; Colorado Wildlife Federation; Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance; Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership; Backcountry Hunters & Anglers; and the National Wildlife Federation. The organizations represent thousands of Colorado hunters and anglers and other wildlife enthusiasts.http://www.ourpubliclands.org/sportsmen-push-deferral-north-fork-leases

Sportsmen's Bill of Rights