In recent weeks, Rep. Scott Tipton has repeatedly and publicly criticized the federal Bureau of Land Management for its pending effort to reconsider 65 illegally issued leases on the White River National Forest that overlap pristine roadless areas, the Thompson Divide, and municipal watersheds.
Tipton, R-Cortez, describes this effort as “highway robbery” and a “disturbing precedent.” The congressman has his facts wrong and misstates the law. Unfortunately, Tipton has chosen to ignore the interests of his constituents in favor of the Texas oil company that is his largest campaign contributor.
The situation on the forest was not good. Over several years (largely during the George W. Bush administration), BLM went on a leasing spree with some of Colorado’s most pristine public lands. The agency sold dozens of oil and gas leases in national forest roadless areas, but failed to attach required stipulations protecting roadless lands. BLM also violated federal law by failing to analyze the environmental impacts of those leases, and issued many leases in disregard of Endangered Species Act protections for rare species like lynx.
Congressman Tipton dismisses those legal violations as paperwork errors, but they are not. The leases fail to include important contractual stipulations that protect environmental resources like water supplies, endangered species habitat, pristine, undeveloped roadless areas, and the Thompson Divide, a favorite of sportsmen, ranchers and recreationists from around the state and throughout the nation.