(CBS4) – The Colorado Department of Natural Resources filed a lawsuit in federal court on Friday challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s resource management plan for the Uncompahgre Field Office. The plan would open nearly one million acres of public lands to drilling and mining in southwest Colorado.
The Colorado DNR and Gov. Jared Polis raised concerns about inconsistencies with state policies when the plan was first approved in July of 2019. Officials claim those concerns were dismissed in the BLM’s final plan.READ MORE: Colorado Researchers Discover Hint Of Scorching-Hot Planet Orbiting Vega
“In Colorado, our public lands are critical to our quality of life and economy. Over the years, the Bureau of Land Management has taken a series of illegal actions in developing the resource management plan that harms and conflicts with our state’s policies. We are bringing this lawsuit to address those harms and safeguard public lands and wildlife in Colorado,” said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.
The state’s complaint claims BLM Deputy Director William Perry Pendley violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act by making decisions while unlawfully occupying the role of the agency’s acting director. In September, a federal judge ruled that Pendley had been serving unlawfully since he was never confirmed to the post by the U.S. Senate as required under the U.S. Constitution.
“The unfortunate fact is that if the Trump Administration had followed the law in appointing a Senate-confirmed nominee to lead the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Colorado and other western states would not be in this predicament,” said Gov. Polis. “It is now Colorado communities and the State of Colorado who face unnecessary uncertainty and potential impacts to local recreation and outdoor industry jobs.”READ MORE: Wheat Ridge-Based Travel Company To Refund More Than $800,000 For Trips Canceled At Beginning Of Pandemic
An October ruling in a federal lawsuit in Montana invalidated two BLM resource management plans and an amendment because they were approved by Pendley.
The Colorado lawsuit states Pendley’s appointment had extended beyond the legal 90-day limit for temporary officials at the time the plan was finalized.
“The Department of Natural Resources raised legitimate concerns in its protest that the final Uncompahgre RMP runs counter to Colorado’s goals to protect sensitive habitat for big game species and other wildlife, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado DNR. “The complaint provides facts demonstrating that these concerns were not addressed appropriately, and the approval of the plan by Pendley’s BLM was invalid. We are hopeful that the uncertainty caused by the questionable appointment can be clarified by the court so that Western Slope and Southwest Colorado communities can reliably plan for the future.”
The Bureau of Land Management released the following statement in response to Colorado’s lawsuit:MORE NEWS: 'Women In Their Infinite Forms': Exhibit By 11 Local Artists On Display At Denver Milk Market
“The Uncompahgre Resource Management Plan as approved consolidated two previous plans from the 1980s and is expected to generate an estimated $2.5 billion in economic output over the life of the plan. The BLM continues to embrace its sustained yield, multiple use mandate, expanding public access for recreation, conservation, and responsible energy development on public lands.”