by Bill Knowles
GARDNER- The deadline to file a protest with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) concerning the auction of BLM parcels to energy companies has passed. Several individuals in Huerfano County and the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) have filed at least two protests requesting certain parcels be removed from the Nov. 11 BLM auction due to wildlife concerns.
The CDOW makes its protest case on the parcels located in the Mt. Mestas area and in the Sheep Mountain area. CDOW has asked that the parcels be withdrawn because the habitat is home to a herd of 125 bighorn sheep.
North of that area are proposed parcels located about a mile west of the Gardner Butte. According to a protest letter sent to the BLM from Gardner resident Dale Lyons, the Gardner Butte has long been known to be the habitat of golden eagles. “When speaking to people who have lived in this area for generations, they have told me that the golden eagles have lived on that butte for as long as they can remember. Numerous Golden Eagle sightings of adults, young eaglets and nesting areas have been reported and witnessed for many years.”
Citing “human caused changes” to the environment as a factor in the decrease of raptor populations, Lyons notes that the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act “prohibits injury to an eagle, a decrease in its productivity … or nest abandonment, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior.”
In addition to immediate impacts, this definition also covers impacts that result from human-induced alterations around a previously used nest site during a time when eagles are not present, if, upon the eagle’s return, such alterations agitate an eagle to a degree that interferes with or interrupts normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering habits, and causes injury, death or nest abandonment.
Violation of the law can bring with it a fine of $100,000 and one year in prison for a first offense. A second offense makes the charge a felony.
Lyons notes in her letter that, “The draft environmental assessment for the November 10, 2011 lease sale fails to address the site-specific impacts of the lease sale on this well-known golden eagle habitat and roosting and nesting site. Until this analysis is done, the parcel should not be offered for lease.”