As much as it is a clichÃ© that environmental groups love nothing more than to sue to stop sundry projects, the tactic
is one that San Juan Citizens Alliance works hard to avoid.
Nevertheless, there are times when the courts are the appropriate venue for hashing out an issue, and protecting the
HD Mountains roadless area from drilling-related damage is proving to be one such example.
On Tuesday, a group of conservation organizations - including the alliance - filed a notice stating we intend to
appeal a federal district court decision allowing a drilling project in the HD Mountains to go forward. While we had
hoped to avoid such an action, the stakes for this important roadless area are simply too high to not take such a
In a region peppered with tens of thousands of gas wells, there must be places where drilling is simply not allowed -
regardless of what resources lie beneath the surface. We very strongly believe that the HD Mountains are among those
locales that should remain as they are: a pristine area rich with wildlife habitat and connectivity, old growth
forests, important clean water resources and untrammeled recreation opportunities. These are irreplaceable values
that are put in great jeopardy when a network of roads, drilling rigs and wells invade ponderosa stands, unspoiled
springs and crucial clean skies.
Because these resources are recognized by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management as being both present in
the HDs and important to protect, we believe that allowing drilling is simply the wrong decision and could have
ramifications beyond the HDs. For this reason, pursuing our litigation to its conclusion - in this case, an appeal -
is the appropriate choice.
Balancing energy needs against the values that such activity inherently threatens is a challenge that land-management
agencies struggle with to varying degrees of success. It is our job as conservationists to push those agencies to
recognize in their decisions the resources that offset our collective demand on public lands. Carving out a little
bit of space, here and there, where well enough is left alone is critical to offsetting the constant pressure on our
The Forest Service and BLM are challenged by striking that balance, and the planning documents that guide the
associated decision-making allow for flexibility in the pursuit. But there are fundamental expectations that the
agencies must meet, and in the case of the HDs, we believe that did not occur. It is worth insisting.
In their proximity and accessibility, contrasted with the wild lands contained therein, the HD Mountains are an
anomaly of great value to all who live in and visit the San Juan Basin. Keeping the core of the HDs free from the
pressures of development that have changed the face of the region is an important goal not to be abandoned. In its
pursuit, we find ourselves in court defending the values that have immeasurable worth.
email@example.com. Megan Graham is director of the San Juan Citizens Alliance.