The Bureau of Land Management has approved a new resource-management plan that covers all or part of eight counties in Southwest Colorado.
The plan was chosen over three alternatives for its balance between environmental protection and recreational and commercial uses.
About 503,000 surface acres and 300,000 acres of mineral estate beneath non-federal land in La Plata, Archuleta, Montezuma, San Juan, Dolores, San Miguel, Hinsdale and Montrose counties are covered in the plan.
The plan doesn’t cover the Canyon of the Ancients.
Administration of the plan falls under the BLM’s Tres Rios field office in Dolores. Mineral extraction must be approved by the U.S. Forest Service.
Among highlights of the resource-management plan, which supersedes a plan that dates to 1985:
Limits noise in Gunnison sage-grouse habitat during the lekking season (when males strut their stuff for females).
Prohibits disturbance of golden and bald eagles nesting areas and maintains winter ranges for elk and mule deer.
Winter ranges on Animas City Mountain and in the Grandview area near Durango are of particular concern because they adjoin urban areas that generate human activities, including violation of off-limit regulations.
National Environmental Protection Act guidelines will govern drilling for gas and oil to reduce the impact of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide on air quality.
Travel over land acquired by the BLM will be limited to existing roads and trails until a site-specific plan is approved.
In San Juan County, 461 acres previously part of the West Needles Wilderness Study area was redesignated as the Molas Pass Recreation Area to allow snowmobiles under certain conditions.
Prescribed burns of overgrown forests in the Dolores River Canyon become “allowable” instead of “restricted” as per former guidelines.
Two grazing allotments in Minnie Gulch and in Little Molas/West Needles will be closed because they overlap bighorn sheep range. When a grazing permit in the Spring Creek Wild Horse Herd Management Area is given up, livestock grazing no longer will be permitted there.
The new plan, with few exceptions, mirrors the final U.S. Forest Service’s management plan for the San Juan National Forest that was published in September 2013.
Protests of the new regulations are not allowed. But if someone feels adversely affected, the process to appeal can be found at www.gpo.gov. Once there, look for 43 CFR Section 4.21 for the process.
The deadline for appeal is March 30.
An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect location of the Tres Rios field office.