Threatens future Wilderness designation and Wildlife
Grape Creek, Horseshoe Mountain State Stewardship Trust land. 2018. Photo John Sztukowski.
Last year, the Colorado State Land Board approved gold mining on the Grape Creek - Horseshoe Mountain State Stewardship Trust Parcel, designated to be managed for "only those uses that will protect and enhance the beauty, natural values, open space and wildlife habitat of those lands."
Zephyr Minerals wants to nearly triple the size of their Permit onto portions of BLM's Grape Creek Area of Critical Environmental Concern and the Grape Creek Wilderness Study Area.
See below for a map of this area and proposed exploration.
The Fremont County Commissioners held a public hearing on Feb 11 on Zephyr Gold USA's application that would allow it to explore for minerals in an area including the Lower Grape Creek Wilderness Study Area. The matter was tabled for additional consideration and was reheard, at their February 25th meeting without public comment.
In a unanimous decision on Feb 25, the Fremont County Commissioners disappointingly approved gold exploration for the Canadian company, Zephyr Minerals, onto some of the most pristine and wild BLM public lands in the state, at Grape Creek just southwest of Cañon City.
The area approved for gold exploration includes BLM’s Grape Creek Wilderness Study Area, proposed for Wilderness in Congresswoman's Diana DeGette’s Colorado Wilderness Act and BLM’s Grape Creek Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).
BLM sums up the values of this area well in their description of the Grape Creek ACEC, which they currently manage and protect, “as a corridor of significant natural character with unique desert riparian resources, scenic and visual qualities, flora and fauna values (bighorn sheep and peregrine falcon nesting area).”
This proposal gives county permission to Zephyr to explore for gold and other minerals in a swathe of land running from south of the Dawson Ranch subdivision in Cañon City to the Green Mountain mine site west of Grape Creek. Zephyr proposes to place several drill pads in the area of exploration, to pipe water from Grape Creek to the drill pad sites, and to service the sites via helicopter, which would require many low-level helicopter flights into the Wilderness Study Area, with severe impacts to wildlife, including the resident herd of bighorn sheep. BLM has not acted on this matter.
Wild Connections opposed the grant of the permit because it would have impacts to the Grape Creek Wilderness Study Area which would impair its suitability for designation as a wilderness. Grape Creek is one of the areas proposed for wilderness designation under the Protect America’s Wilderness Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives on February 12th.
Wild Connections also opposes grant of the county permit because Zephyr does not yet have permission from the Bureau of Land Management to carry out minerals exploration. The BLM recently sent Zephyr notice that it would need to provide additional information on 16 points, including impairment of suitability for wilderness designation, before the BLM could even consider grant of a minerals exploration permit. Wild Connections believes that it is inappropriate for the County to grant a conditional use permit before the owner of the land, in this case the federal government, has given permission to carry out the requested activities.
Find more info on this important local issue from our friends at Royal Gorge Preservation Project at: http://www.royalgorgepreservationproject.org/latest-news-2/
Grape Creek CUP Modification Map: Zephyr Minerals. Click for a full PDF.
Wild Connections' mission is to identify, protect, and restore wildlands, native species,
and biological diversity in the Arkansas and South Platte watersheds.