Cross-posted from ColoradoPols
In a show of arrogance that has become too typical of the Colorado State Office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the agency is ignoring a Federal judge, media requests, stakeholders, and the public in denying public information about public activities on the public lands, according to the Durango Herald:
“This isn’t a widespread issue of public concern. It is primarily press that are concerned about oil and gas leasing and activists that are opposed to oil and gas leasing.”
The state ‘Communications Director’, one might assume, has the job as a public employee working on public lands issues and spending public monies, of informing the public and managing media relations. The ‘press’ and public are–this common-sense assumption goes–the PRIMARY purpose of his receiving a Federal salary as a taxpayer-funded public employee.
But apparently not for BLM Colorado–where public information is no such thing, and the public and media are merely distractions from what ever other self-determined more important things, like defending illegal agency actions perhaps, or intentionally seeking to divide communities.
Colorado’s North Fork Standing Up
This particular matter has its roots in the BLM Colorado State Office’s reckless oil and gas leasing policy that willfully ignores local communities, other federal agencies, state wildlife officials, local businesses and the public, to lease whatever public lands secret industry representatives nominate. This is despite Colorado having the oldest land use plans in the Mountain West, many dating back to the 1980s–like that that governs the public lands in the North Fork–most of which fail completely to properly account for, describe, consider or protect the resources and uses that exist or depend upon these lands today.
Citizens for a Healthy Community–a Delta County based conservation group–partnered with the Western Environmental Law Center to file lawsuit seeking the names of the nominators who put forward the contentious leases in that valley. They won that suit.
Here is what the judge wrote:
“Competition in bidding advances the purpose of getting a fair price for a lease of publicly owned minerals,” Matsch wrote. “Moreover, the identity of the submitter may be relevant to the plaintiff and others who may raise concerns about the stewardship records of that potential owner, a factor relevant to the environmental impact of the proposed sale.”
So, a Federal judge acknowledges that sharing information on public lands and public minerals is in the public interest and orders the public employees at a public agency to release that (public) information.
And the senior staff at BLM Colorado Office responds, to paraphrase: Make us (again).
Following the judge’s decision and the BLM Colorado’s clear loss in court, others–including the Durango Herald–have now sought identical information regarding contentious leases in their communities. Such as those surrounding Mesa Verde National Park opposed by the BLM’s own sister agency in the Department of Interior, the National Park Service.
Now, the Colorado State Office of the BLM, our public employees spending our public monies to manage our public lands and minerals, is refusing to release that information. Again. Because, apparently its Communications Director has better things to do than communicate.
Maybe like spending more time in court defending the indefensible, losing more lawsuits, and greasing the skids for oil and gas in violation of what the Federal courts have found to be in the public’s interest.