Court showdown likely over Colorado's West Elk coal mine

Posted: Jan 8, 2013

Written by

BOB BERWYN, Summit County Citizens Voice
Lynx

Conservation groups say they will likely go to court to block a coalmine expansion in a roadless area 10 miles west of Paonia. The coal lease expansion paves the way for corporate giant Arch Coal to bulldoze 6.5 miles of road and 48 natural gas drilling pads through 1,700 acres — about three-square miles — of roadless forest for the company’s West Elk mine.

The Bureau of Land Management approved the coal lease expansion last week, a decision that followed an August 2012 Forest Service decision to “consent” to the destructive expansion on the Gunnison National Forest. The roadless area at stake includes forest of aspen and giant spruce, beaver lodges and meadows in an area used by hikers and hunters. The area provides habitat for lynx, a species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, as well as elk, black bear, and hawks.

In mid-December, four conservation groups – High Country Citizens’ Alliance, WildEarth Guardians, Sierra Club, and Rocky Mountain Wild – filed a notice of intent to sue the Forest Service under the Endangered Species Act for failing to ensure that the mine expansion would not harm lynx. The agency failed to consider that approving the lease expansion will permit Arch Coal to bulldoze additional roads through lynx habitat on other nearby National Forest and private lands.

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