Today, the Bureau of Land Management released its proposed resource management plan/final supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for the Colorado River Valley and Grand Junction field offices, which will determine how 2 million acres of land in western Colorado is managed for decades.

This proposed plan is a court-ordered update to 2015 plans that short-changed wildlands and our climate. Unfortunately, the supplemental plan still does not take the necessary steps to address the climate crisis and more must be done to address harmful climate-changing emissions in the planning area. The BLM has scaled up conservation measures in certain areas by providing additional protections for some of the region’s most sensitive wildlands. Despite these additional protections, the plan prioritizes extractive development over protection of natural resources. Focusing on both climate impacts and conservation measures is necessary to ensure the area’s valuable resources are protected, outdoor access is maintained, and western communities and regional economies can thrive in the future.

“While we appreciate the final plan’s focus on protections for public lands and conservation of important public resources, we are deeply disappointed at the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to once again forgo this critical opportunity to address the climate crisis through its long-term land use management decisions,” said Melissa Hornbein, senior attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. “Conserving sensitive wild places while authorizing widespread fossil fuel extraction that will worsen the climate crisis and the wildfires, drought, and deadly heat waves that are themselves contributing to these lands’ fragility exemplifies the incoherence of policies that aim to please everyone. The Bureau’s decision to adopt a final alternative that was not previously presented to the public and that opens approximately 30% more lands to fluid mineral development than the prior preferred alternative is particularly troubling, as is the agency’s continued refusal to even consider closure of the planning area to new leasing.”

“While the proposed plan provides important protections for special places like the Grand Hogback and Castle Peak, the BLM missed a critical opportunity to meaningfully address the climate impacts of fossil fuel development on our public lands,” said Erin Riccio, the Advocacy Director at Wilderness Workshop. “The plan leaves 855,300 acres open to oil and gas leasing, which is 30% less closures than the BLM proposed in its preferred alternative in last November’s draft plan. Despite reports stating that closing lands with low to moderate oil and gas potential to leasing will have an ‘insignificant impact’ on regional development, the BLM chose to keep many lands with moderate potential open to new leasing at the expense of other values and our shared climate.”

The BLM should be commended for implementing protections for some wildlands that will help protect wildlife and some of the most extraordinary landscapes of the Western Slope, including gains in the canyon country of the Dolores River. The BLM’s proposed alternative uses a variety of tools, including additional protections to 52,000 acres of wilderness quality lands and expanding the existing Castle Peak Wilderness Study Area in Eagle County by 7,000 acres. While a step back from consideration of some Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) in the draft’s preferred alternative, the proposed action includes the expansion of two ACECs and provides additional closures to future oil and gas leasing in several of these important areas.

“The public lands in the BLM’s Upper Colorado District are some of the most accessible and loved wildlands in western Colorado. Protecting these wild places is key to safeguarding outdoor access and recreation opportunities, and acknowledges the critical role that undisturbed public lands play in reducing the ongoing loss of biodiversity and the climate crisis,” said Keeley Meehan, Policy Director at Colorado Wildlands Project. “While there is more work to be done for these issues to be adequately addressed, we are glad to see the BLM using a variety of tools available to make progress towards protecting some of the area’s most sensitive wildlands. We are hopeful that the BLM will make additional shifts prior to issuing the record of decision to ensure appropriately balanced management of our public lands.”

The BLM’s proposed plan is embedded in a new alternative, Alternative G, which is a combination of management prescriptions from the alternatives in the draft SEIS. Alternative G scales up wildland conservation in key areas, but fails to protect resources in areas with the highest potential for future oil and gas development. The agency’s proposed alternative closes areas with no-known and low potential for oil and gas to future leasing, with the exception of more than 190,000 acres in the Grand Junction Field Office that it leaves available for future helium development. Helium is a nonrenewable resource that is developed using the same leasing and development methods as oil and gas. There are existing leases and producing infrastructure in the area that already provide adequate access to helium, and the area has significant overlap with high-priority wildlands and wildlife habitat. Conservation interests are concerned that leaving this location open to future industrial development unnecessarily threatens wildlands and wildlife in the name of speculative leasing.

Colorado’s BLM lands are among the nation’s most iconic open areas in the West. Western Colorado contains some of our state’s most important wildlife habitat, treasured recreation areas, wildlands that should be protected for future generations, critical water resources, famed Colorado scenery and Indigenous cultural sites. As the world faces a staggering loss of nature and disappearance of biodiversity, our public lands are a vital “connective tissue” across the western U.S., providing critical corridors for wildlife between big wilderness areas, national parks and refuges, and smaller private, state and county lands.

According to a 2024 State of the Rockies report, 82% of Coloradans “think more emphasis should be placed on conserving wildlife migration routes than on new development, roads, ranching, or oil and gas production in those areas.” During the comment period for the draft SEIS, the broader conservation community generated responses from nearly 6,000 community members. Nearly 85 businesses and more than 25 elected officials on the Western Slope signed letters in support of the proposed closures to new leasing and increased conservation management.

Additional resources:
1) Conservation Support Book
2) Conservation Economics Institute Reports

Melissa Hornbein, Western Environmental Law Center, 406-708-3058,
Francis Sanzaro, Communications Director, 315-415-7861, Wilderness Workshop,
Keeley Meehan, Policy Director, 618-210-9805, Colorado Wildlands Project,
Alli Henderson, Southern Rockies Director, Center for Biological Diversity, 970-309-2008,

Additional quotes:
“While we believe more work needs to be done to more fully address the climate change and air quality concerns of disproportionately impacted communities that have too often felt the impacts of resource extraction, this plan is a positive starting point for BLM to build upon. We’re optimistic that by stepping up conservation measures alongside a continued and growing commitment to responsible development, we can ensure a thriving and more sustainable western slope for all.”
– Brien Webster, Public Lands Campaign Manager, Conservation Colorado

“The Colorado River valley and surrounding cliffs and mesas contain some of our state’s most important wildlife habitat. This region includes critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse, one of the most engaged birds in North America. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has identified high priority habitat for big game throughout this region including important areas for desert bighorn sheep that have returned to Colorado after being absent for several centuries. Scientific research has shown that oil and gas development is harmful to these animals and to many other wildlife and plant species found in this area. The proposed plan takes some important first steps to conserve natural areas in this region and we call on the Bureau of Land Management to strengthen the plan further to protect the wildlife and wildlands that we value in our state.“
– Alison Gallensky, Conservation Geographer, Rocky Mountain Wild

“This plan is a good example of how the BLM can protect critical landscapes across public lands. We appreciate the BLM for finalizing a plan that elevates protections for some of our state’s most important wildlife habitat, critical water resources, and Indigenous cultural sites through new and expanded conservation designations, but emphasizing development across the landscape misses the mark.”
– Ben Katz, Colorado-based Associate Program Director, Conservation Lands Foundation

“This is good news for nature here in Colorado. The BLM is acting to preserve some of the state’s best recreation areas and habitats for bighorn sheep, native trout, and endangered species such as the humpback chub. As climate change continues to intensify, the BLM should take further action to minimize greenhouse gas emissions that could be emitted from future oil and gas activity in our state.”
– Ellen Montgomery, Public Lands Campaign Director, Environment Colorado

“The small steps the Bureau of Land Management is proposing to take to protect some important public lands doesn’t excuse the agency for yet again failing to rise to the moment and take desperately needed action to address the climate emergency. As the recent scorching heat and high fire danger across much of Colorado have illustrated, the era of fossil fuel leasing on our public lands has to end. The climate crisis is here, and the BLM leadership needs to step up and keep oil and gas in the ground.”
– Alli Henderson, Southern Rockies Director, Center for Biological Diversity

“We applaud the proposed conservation measures for areas of critical environmental concern and wilderness-quality lands in western Colorado. In particular, we’re thrilled to see the BLM exercise its statutory authority to designate new Wilderness Study Areas, an essential tool for protecting intact landscapes, important habitat and biodiversity. Nonetheless, much work remains to address the climate crisis and our hope going forward is that the BLM takes meaningful action to remove fossil fuel development from places where it doesn’t belong.”
– Jim Ramey, Colorado State Director, The Wilderness Society

Local Support:
“About a quarter million acres in Eagle County are managed by the BLM. Like the rest of Colorado, where only 16% of the BLM’s 8.3 million acres are durably protected, most of those Eagle County lands are not permanently conserved. We appreciate that the final SEIS proposes thoughtful limits on oil and gas leasing, and takes important steps such as the expansion of the Castle Peak Wilderness Study Area, and other measures to protect BLM lands. These public lands protect our wildlife, contribute to our world-class outdoor recreation experiences and help ensure our local economy thrives, all of which make Eagle County such a special place to live or visit.”
-Kathy Chandler-Henry, Eagle County Commissioner

“As a public servant in Grand Junction, I am committed to responsible management of our public resources. Preserving the values, recreational opportunities, and public lands that define our region is paramount. We must protect the essence of our community – clean air, clean water, and unparalleled landscapes that contribute to our way of life on the Western Slope. Enhancing access to these areas ensures that families, hunters, bikers, anglers, and all those who use our public lands can continue to explore and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us. Together, we must prioritize a balanced approach that protects our region while supporting sustainable economic growth. By doing so we forge a legacy of stewardship and ensure Mesa County remains a thriving community, and that our surrounding public lands continue to support our way of life.”
– Abe Herman, Mayor of Grand Junction

“Agriculture on the Western Slope is already in a precarious position with persistent drought and an escalating climate emergency. It’s time to manage our lands, waters and resources for the future, not to prop up status quo industries of the past. Protecting our public lands and limiting their use for oil and gas speculation and drilling protects other businesses and public uses, secures public resources, and mitigates against ever-worsening catastrophe. The future of farming, and of all human activity here, now depends on the wise and sustainable management of our critical resources.”
-Pete Kolbenschlag, Director, Colorado Farm & Food Alliance

“As the owner of an outdoor recreation business in Carbondale, I strongly advocate for multiple use management on our local BLM lands. This new plan from the BLM provides an important opportunity to rebalance priorities to reflect our community’s needs and protect recreational opportunities from speculative oil and gas leasing. While I am encouraged to see a more balanced final management plan, there’s room for improvement to better protect the lands that make communities like Carbondale such a special place to live, raise a family, and build a business in.”
-Peter Arlein, owner of MountainFLOW Ecowax

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