Slow Go on the Plateau

In the end, the plan for gas drilling on the Roan Plateau, one of the most ecologically diverse areas on the Western Slope, displeased just about everyone. Environmentalists, Senator Ken Salazar and an unusual coalition of local recreation and business interests wanted to leave the top of the plateau unscathed. Energy companies wanted the kind of ready access they've enjoyed across the rest of Garfield County, which now bristles with wells like quills on a porcupine's back.

The final plan unveiled by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management yesterday does open up thousands of acres to drilling on top of the Roan, which contains up to a third of all the natural gas reserves in the state. But it allows only one percent of the plateau to be drilled at a time, with extensive restoration required before the next wellpad sprouts. That will drag out the process over decades, energy groups grumble — and give the plateau's rich wildlife and rare plant species a chance to recover from the trauma.

You can read the BLM's plan here.

For more about what's at stake, check out "Raiding the Roan" (originally published January 1, 2004), a detailed look at one of the state's last wild places. —Alan Prendergast