The Roan Plateau in western Colorado is the “line in the sand” for the Western sportsman who values intact fish and wildlife habitat and a unique sporting opportunity amidst a sea of industrial development. The Roan, which comprises only 1.5 percent of the entire Piceance Basin, rests above significant reserves of natural gas, but also provides refuge for trophy mule deer, elk, grouse, bear, mountain lion and pure strains of Colorado River cutthroat trout.
Unfortunately, against the wishes of sportsmen, surrounding communities, and Colorado’s federal delegation, the Roan was leased for gas drilling in 2008. Trout Unlimited and a host of conservation groups who recognized the value of the Roan for future generations, immediately challenged the leases in court, and that’s where the issue rests today—in the hands of a judge.
One important note: Trout Unlimited and Field & Stream have never opposed drilling for the gas beneath the Roan. Instead, we’ve proposed several ways to drill for the gas using state-of-the-art directional drilling techniques, phased in leasing, drilling and reclamation and plans to protect the Roan’s fragile streams. In these streams swim a unique strain of Colorado River cutthroat trout that has evolved isolated above an impassible waterfall. These fish are pure-strain cutthroats, and their environment is already pretty austere. Drilling for natural gas, particularly in this area, where industry oversight when it comes to safety and environmental protection has been lax, might be the one thing that would wipe out these priceless fisheries.
Working with hunters, anglers and guides and outfitters, Field & Stream and TU will not give up the Roan to wholesale drilling without a fight. With a glut of natural gas on the market today, and with technology available to ensure drilling won’t harm fish and game habitat, we see no need to sacrifice any further.
In addition to its fisheries, the Roan is home to excellent big-game hunting opportunities for deer, elk, bear and lion, as well as grouse and wild turkeys. It truly is a sportsman’s oasis in a sea of industrial activity.
What’s on the Roan?
Fishing assets: Native Colorado River cutthroat trout, brook trout.
Hunting assets: Elk, deer, ruffed grouse, blue grouse, black bear, mountain lion.
Other: The Roan is important for recreation, not only for sportsmen, but for hikers, campers and others. It’s also used by area cattlemen for grazing, and by hunting outfitters and guides as a deer and elk base camp.
Threats: Unnecessary and intrusive natural gas drilling threatens the water quality on the Roan, as well as the big-game habitat atop the plateau.