HAMET Helicopter Training on Public Lands

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Royal Gorge Field Office recently sought public comment on a proposal from the U.S. Army Fort Carson to conduct High Altitude Mountain Environment Training (HAMET) on public lands in Fremont, Teller and Park counties. The HAMET proposal involves helicopters briefly touching down on and flying over public lands. Fort Carson is requesting use of 43 landing zones with a total of 6,200 landings per year.

The BLM prepared a draft Environmental Assessment addressing issues pertaining to wildlife, recreation, noise, and cultural resources, among others. The draft EA, maps, and information can be found on the BLM ePlanning site https://go.usa.gov/xywF7. The public comment period has ended, and we are awaiting the release of the final Environmental Assessment.

The map below shows the proposed landing sites and the noise impacts that will affect multiple communities and the surrounding areas.  The proposed action has the potential to impact homes, cultural resources, wildlife, recreation and income generated from visitors to the area.

Zephyr Minerals Application to Nearly Triple Size with Grape Creek Expansion

Zephyr Minerals has applied for a major modification of their Dawson Gold Conditional Use Permit (CUP) in Fremont County.  If granted, the modification would nearly triple the size of their mining exploration, expanding the area from 593 acres to 1762 acres.  The additional 1169 acres included in this application is entirely public land.  It includes the Grape Creek Trust Land as well as land to both the east and west of the Trust Land, and it is adjacent to Temple Canyon Park.  During exploration activities, the application states that the site will operate 24 hours per day, seven days per week, during the period from July 1st through October 30th, which are prime recreation and hunting periods in that area for both residents and tourists.  Zephyr's ultimate goal, as stated in the application letter, is to mine this area.  The complete application can be found on the county website at https://www.fremontco.com/files/planning-and-zoning/current-projects/cup-major-mod-app6162019-reduced.pdf.

The Fremont County Planning Commission reviews Conditional Use Permit applications at public meetings.  RGPP has sent a request to the Planning Commission asking for a formal public hearing on this matter, as public lands belong to all tax payers.  This application has not yet been placed on the agenda of the Planning Commission.  RGPP will continue to monitor the status of the application and post updates when available.

Additionally, Zephyr will be submitting a Plan of Operations to the Bureau of Land Management and an application the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (DRMS) to modify their state permit.

The Colorado State Land Board received nearly 200 pages of letters of opposition against exploration and mining in this area.  They can be found on the State Land Board website starting on page 16 of this packet:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VeD8X_zNbdsxAuu2Y31LTF4etbAUsABc/view.

We will send out relevant meeting dates and times when they become available, but it is never to soon to voice your opinion to our county, state, and federal officials and staff members who have the authority to approve or deny this expansion.  Contact information can be found at http://www.royalgorgepreservationproject.org/governmental-agencies/.

Bureau of Land Management Releases Draft Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan

The Bureau of Land Management has released the Draft Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan & Environmental Impact Statement (RMP).  Once finalized, this plan will establish specific goals, objectives, allowable uses, management actions, and special designations for managing lands within the Royal Gorge Field Office.

The public was invited to participate during the 90-day public comment period that ended  September 20, 2019.  This RMP will govern the use of our public lands for the next two decades, so we are anxiously awaiting the publication of the final RMP.

April 24th:  Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety Rejects Appeal of the Approval of the Dawson Gold Project NOI Permit Modification

In February, the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (DRMS) approved a modification to the Dawson Gold Project Notice of Intent to Prospect (NOI). This modification allows Zephyr Minerals to expand the Dawson Gold Project further east toward the Dawson Ranch Subdivision. This also allows them to build new roads that may intersect the Hot Shots Trail of the popular Section 13/South Canon Trails according to Zephyr's representative, Angela Bellantoni, of Environmental Alternatives: https://dnrweblink.state.co.us/drms/0/edoc/1275362/2019-03-28_REVISION%20-%20P2013002.pdf?searchid=29069fbf-7072-4aa6-82b7-660d26e65fb4.

The DRMS decision was appealed, and the Mined Land Reclamation Board agreed to hear the petition for appeal at the March 27-28, 2019, Board Meeting. On March 19, Zephyr requested a continuance of the hearing until the April 24th-25th Board Meeting. At the April 24th hearing, the appeal was denied based on the lack of DRMS jurisdiction regarding Zephyr Minerals' lack of legally established access to their areas of operation.

During the hearing, the Board Chairman inquired whether Zephyr had easements or rights-of-way to access their claims. Both the DRMS staff and the appellants testified that neither existed. It was later noted by another Board member that Fremont County Planning and Zoning had lifted the contingency placed on the Dawson Gold Project County Conditional Use Permit (CUP) requiring proof of legally established access to all areas of exploration. The Board member inquired of the appellants why the county had provided a letter stating that Zephyr's access had been "legally established" when neither easements nor rights-of-way existed. The appellants responded that there are no legal agreements between Zephyr and the multiple property owners, thus there is no legally established access, and the Planning and Zoning Division should never have lifted the contingency.

The state permit modification lies outside of the current County Conditional Use Permit boundaries.  According to the Fremont County Zoning Resolution Section 8.10, Zephyr will need to file a modification with the county to expand operations beyond the initial CUP area which should require a public hearing prior to approval of the county modification.

April 11th:  Colorado State Land Board Approves Grape Creek-Horseshoe Mountain State Stewardship Trust Land Mining Lease

On April 11th, after acknowledging the large number of letters received in opposition, the Colorado State Land Board (SLB) approved Zephyr Minerals' request for a mineral lease for the Grape Creek-Horseshoe Mountain State Stewardship Trust Land adjacent to the southwest corner of Temple Canyon Park. In a 4 to 1 vote, the SLB voted to lease this property for $1,920 per year.  Grape Creek runs throughout this parcel making it a popular fishing as well as hunting destination.

The details of the lease as well as the nearly 200 pages of opposition can be found in the meeting packet at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VeD8X_zNbdsxAuu2Y31LTF4etbAUsABc/view.

The next steps of the process will be the permitting of this expansion of the project at both the county and state levels.  Please watch for our email updates about the public input timelines of these very important steps.