Project Description

Initiative: Protecting Wilderness from Drilling

The Roan Plateau, northwest of Rifle, CO, rises 3,500 feet above the Colorado River Valley. The plateau is an undeveloped island of public land amid a quickly growing complex of natural gas fields. Well pads, drill rigs, roads, pipelines, waste pits and other infrastructure already stretch for miles in every direction from the Roan Plateau, but the top remains relatively undisturbed, with broad expanses of wildflower meadows, immense stands of aspen, a 200 foot waterfall, and large tracts of road less, wilderness quality lands. Widely known as a biological “hotspot”, the Roan Plateau is home to black bear, cougar and some of the state’s prized deer and elk herds. Sensitive species include plants that grow nowhere else on Earth, and one of the more pure strains of native trout in the world.

In 2005, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposed a plan to open up Colorado’s Roan Plateau to drilling for natural gas. Rock the Earth (RtE) and 12 other environmental advocacy groups argued that the proposed plan violated federal law by: a) failing to allow public comment on the plan and: b) by ignoring both the near and long-term impacts of drilling to air and land quality and wildlife populations. The BLM’s plan, a priority of the George W. Bush administration, proposed a “preferred alternative” for managing the area that would result in massive drilling atop the Plateau within a decade. Public uses of the plateau would be diminished. Researchers estimated the ecological impacts of this magnitude drilling on the plateau would be irreparable.


In November 2014, Rock the Earth, the other Plaintiff Parties, the drilling companies, and the BLM, with support from the State of Colorado and local municipalities entered into a historic Settlement Agreement. The Settlement cancels the vast majority of drilling leases on the Plateau.  RtE and our partners continue to follow and monitor the implementation of the Settlement.

If you’d like more information about Rock the Earth’s Education and Outreach or Legal and Technical work in opposition to drilling on the Roan Plateau (e.g. public comments, court filings), contact us.