The Mamm Peak roadless area is located approximately 8 miles south of Rifle, on the north slope of Battlement Mesa. With dramatic peaks, grassy meadows, steep shale cliffs, and thick forests, this roadless area is more than just a majestic scenic resource. Known as the largest habitat for black bears within Colorado, a home to wild turkeys and lynx, an elk calving area, and the centerpiece of a seventy-mile wildlife corridor; it is evident that keeping this area roadless is vital to the sustained survival of Colorado wildlife. Because of its role in wildlife migration and its diverse ecological characteristics, it has been identified by the Colorado Division of Wildlife as an area of extremely high priority habitat. In recent years, this roadless area has gained even more importance as wildlife is pressured to use it due to increasing energy and residential development in the surrounding private lands. Beyond its importance for wildlife, outfitters have long relied on leading hikers, hunters, and horseback riders in order to make a living.
After years of complicated and uncertain litigation, conservation groups are still fighting to ensure that Mamm Peak is protected by the Forest Service’s 2011 Colorado roadless rule. Many feel the rule has fallen short of their expectations, as compared to the Clinton-era rule, only a mere 13 percent of land is protected by the new law. The Colorado rule leaves Mamm Peak vulnerable to oil and gas exploitation, and leasing has already begun within this once protected roadless area. In 2005, a 6-acre well pad, two exploration wells, and 1.5-mile long road devastated the pristine East Mamm Creek unit. If these initial exploratory wells are successful, dozens more could follow, leading to road, pipeline, and well pad construction that could permanently destroy the area’s integrity. Continued construction on the steep and unstable slopes of Mamm Peak would lead to enormous land wasting, as well as water and habitat contamination. In late 2011, without analyzing the air quality, the BLM approved 68 new wells on leases within the unit. This year, the BLM is planning to auction a new oil and gas lease in the Mamm Peak roadless area without the required environmental review. Under industry pressure, the Forest Service has consented to the sale, despite local outcries and earlier promises that it would not. Conservation groups were successful in getting one lease deferred from an August 2013 lease sale after a formal protest. More environmental review will be required to get the whole area protected and EcoFlight and our partners will remain engaged in the issue.
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