|Tres Rios Master Leasing Plan (Graphic: U.S. Bureau of Land Management)|
Crow Canyon Archaeological Center joined with local and regional businesses and organizations in supporting the implementation of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Tres Rios Master Leasing Plan, which could help ensure that some of southwest Colorado's most at-risk public lands—and its vast collection of cultural and archaeological resources—will be protected and developed in a way that works for everybody.
“The Crow Canyon Archaeological Center and the archaeological community in general applaud the BLM for deciding to conduct a Master Leasing Plan in the Mesa Verde area,” said Deborah Gangloff, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center President and CEO. "While the area is reduced from the original plan, it is vitally important that the MLP process proceed as quickly as possible. “
The Tres Rios MLP is a locally-driven land-use planning tool that, if implemented, would help strike a balance between responsible oil and gas development and conserving important natural and cultural resources in the Mesa Verde region, which includes lands adjacent to Mesa Verde National Park. The MLP would cover approximately 71,000-acres of land in Montezuma and western La Plata counties (PDF) that are either managed by the BLM or have federally-owned subsurface mineral rights.
The plan could protect the Mesa Verde escarpment from oil and gas development, as well as a swath of land between Cortez and Mancos, where more than 360 archaeological sites have been recorded to date.
In addition, the area holds great significance for the American Indian tribal groups that live in the Four Corners region who consider the Mesa Verde region part of their ancestral homeland, and consider the archaeological sites an important part of their heritage. The development and implementation of the MLP could help to ensure that tribal concerns are considered in the leasing of public land for oil and gas extraction.
Although it has been approved, the BLM is delaying implementation of the Tres Rios MLP until 2018, raising concerns that it could be further postponed or halted altogether under the new administration.
"The cultural resources here are significant in terms of American Indian heritage and our shared human heritage, and bring tremendous economic opportunities to this unique part of the United States. These irreplaceable cultural resources deserve to be respected and avoided in the course of development," said Gangloff.