Recently, the Paonia-based Citizens for a Healthy Community, along with nearly 30 other organizations, wrote to the Bureau of Land Management, requesting that the agency comply with a recent legal ruling and release the names of all lease parcel nominators to the public. KVNF’s Marty Durlin has more.
In February federal judge Richard Match ruled in favor of CHC and the Western Environmental Law Center in their freedom of information suit against the BLM. The judge said the agency must release the names of those who nominate parcels for lease in order to drill for oil and gas on public lands. CHC’s Jim Ramey explains what happened next.
“So the BLM complied with his ruling in our case,” says Ramey “released information to us who the nominators were of the North Fork parcels that were put up for lease, but they’ve continued to withhold this information when requested from other groups or journalists. So we’ve joined with this coalition of groups to say, hey BLM, follow the law, adjust your policy and provide this information to the public.”
So far, the organizations have not initiated any further legal action against the BLM, but another legal issue remains unresolved.
“We have a pending FOIA request for about a 2000-acre parcel north of the town of Delta, and there are a couple of other groups and journalists out there who have filed FOIA requests with BLM to which BLM has not provided the information,” says Ramey.
As for reforms in public land policy within BLM and the Department of Energy, Ramey acknowledges that some progress was made under Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
According to Ramey, “The leasing reforms that Secretary Salazar instituted, I believe they were in 2010…they brought more public process to BLM’s oil and gas lease sale, which is a really good thing. So that’s a great step in the right direction. But some of the other reforms to my knowledge haven’t been fully instituted here in Colorado, which has some of the oldest land use plans across the West, which we know all too well. And to base decisions on how we should be using public lands on poor analysis that was done in the early and mid 1980s – that’s not a good idea.”
“So I hope that we continue to see from the BLM more transparency, increased public participation,” says Ramey. “Those are good things when we’re talking about the management of the public’s lands.”