Proposed rule changes dealing with wildlife would negatively impact people who rely on services in the county, the Board of County Commissioners has said.
The new rules are being considered by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).
In addition, some of the proposed changes are based on inferential science and include definitions that are "too broad" which "are subject to loose interpretation," the BoCC said.
The county position on the proposed COGCC regs was ratified by commissioners during their meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 3.
Specifically, regs changes aimed at the Gunnison sage grouse are seen by the county as "unnecessary" and "questionable."
The regulations would establish a new four-mile-wide buffer area around Gunnison sage grouse nesting areas, known as leks. There is a Gunnison sage grouse population located in Montrose County southwest of Crawford.
"The proposed change could place buffer areas close to Delta County and would otherwise impact residents who (because of) their geographic location are more reliant on Delta County for services than on Montrose County," the BoCC's letter states.
The wording change in current rules would also "arbitrarily force non-qualified (Gunnison sage grouse) habitat areas into the 'sensitive wildlife habitat,' (SWH) classification, and that would require more consultation and mitigation for land use permits.
"The board considers this unnecessary," states the letter. Also, the new four-mile reg would increase the number of acres in the sensitive wildlife habitat designation by 63 percent. The county calls these areas "questionable" and says they probably "would not have qualified (as SWH areas) under the current definitions."
The commissioners also fault some of the wildlife science being used to justify changes that deal with big game. The BoCC believes that proposed rule changes on defining big game winter concentration areas "are too broad and are subject to loose interpretation. These particular (terms) need to be clearly defined before being included in SWH concerns."
Vague definitions and loose interpretation also plague the proposed regs where the sage grouse is concerned, the BoCC maintains. Government wildlife agencies provide three classifications of sage grouse habitat. The proposed change would group those into one four-mile radius carrying priority status. And, the BoCC adds, industry is already operating under its own rules banning operations within four miles of leks.
"Industry currently imposes a four-mile buffer around active leks; however, to expand that to all priority habitat only increases confusion and adds the potential for increased litigation."
The county recommends using standardized habitat classifications across all agencies and "that the COGCC use the same habitat designations as state and federal agencies, and limit the restricted surface occupancy to the (sage grouse) breeding and brood raising areas."
Finally, the commissioners maintain that the COGCC and the BLM should consult and coordinate with each other in order to "provide common usage of the same wildlife information when dealing with oil and gas operations."blog comments powered by Disqus