The federal lands of Colorado’s Roan Plateau, long prized for its natural gas riches and wildlife, will be up for auction Aug. 14, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said Monday.

The BLM, which approved a drilling plan for the plateau in March (see Daily GPI, March 17), said it would offer 46 parcels for lease, which would be around 73,500 acres. The auction would include 31 parcels, or 55,186 acres, on top of the Roan Plateau and on the plateau’s sides that are currently not leased, said BLM. The other 15 parcels in the lease auction cover around 18,300 acres on U.S. Forest Service lands in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests.

Protests, expected to be filed by environmental and wildlife groups, may be filed through July 30, BLM noted. A protest would require BLM to take another look at the contested parcel(s) and decide whether the reason for the protest is valid.

Several of the state’s politicians already have weighed in on the future of the plateau. Gov. Bill Ritter has proposed an alternate plan, and three of the state’s lawmakers — Sen. Ken Salazar, Rep. John Salazar and Rep. Mark Udall — in April introduced legislation calling for phased leasing of federal mineral leases on the plateau and increasing the acreage for areas of critical environmental concern (ACEC), a special area given a higher level of protection, to 39,338 acres (see Daily GPI, April 21). BLM has designated 21,034 acres as ACECs.

The Roan Plateau holds enough natural gas to heat four million homes for 20 years, with an estimated 9 Tcf of natural gas that could be pumped from federal lands in the Roan area, according to BLM. Money from leasing and royalties on natural gas sales is expected to generate between $857 million and $1.13 billion over the next 20 years, and Colorado would receive about half of the royalties, an estimated $428-565 million, BLM said.

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