BLM Releases Final EIS for Parkdale Quarry Proposed Expansion
onto 700 acres of Echo Canyon Lands with Wilderness Characteristics
Public Review Period Ends July 13, 2020.
The BLM Royal Gorge Field Office has released their Final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed expansion of the Parkdale Quarry, located west of Cañon City in Bighorn Sheep Canyon, onto about 700 aces of BLM public lands, which the BLM has found to have Lands with Wilderness Characteristics (LWC), and partly onto BLM's Arkansas Canyonlands Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), an area currently managed and protected for outstanding recreation, scenic views, and critical and valued species.
The BLM has identified Alternative A as BLM’s preferred alternative. This was also Martin Marietta Materials preferred alternative and the alternative that had the least public support. BLM’s Alternative C had a smaller footprint and was drafted in response to stakeholder concerns regarding potential impacts, however was ultimately rejected. BLM’s Alternative B, which had the most public support, would have denied the application outright and left this wilderness quality land in tact.
Martin Marietta's Parkdale Quarry in Bighorn Sheep Canyon. Photo BLM.
BLM Selects Alternative A for the Parkdale Quarry
The BLM released a draft environmental impact statement and analysis in February 2020, which had three alternatives for the proposed quarry expansion. They ultimately chose the industry favorite in Alternative A, however read below for details on all of the proposed Alternatives:
Alternative A (Proposed Action) would be a 100-year life-of-mine that would expand onto 1,458 acres of BLM public land, and disturb about 700 acres for mining and extraction of rock materials.
This proposed expansion area entirely overlaps with BLM's greater 31,918 acre Echo Canyon Lands with Wilderness Characteristics (LWC) and a portion of BLM's nearly 24,000 acre Arkansas Canyonlands Area of Critical Environmental Concern.
This will be the likely scenario if the public is mute!
Alternative B (No Action Alternative) would deny Martin Marietta's mineral materials application.
There would be no expansion of the existing Parkdale Quarry onto BLM-administered lands.
Martin Marietta would continue to mine the granitic deposit on privately-owned lands at the existing Parkdale Quarry
Alternative C (Alternative Sale Area) would be a 100-year life-of-mine that would expand onto 893 acres of BLM public land, and disturb about 633 acres for mining and extraction of rock materials.
The overall area is 39% less compared to Alternative A, however the disturbed area for mining is only 9% less compared to Alternative A.
BLM added this Alternative to the draft in response to stakeholder concerns regarding potential impacts under Alternative A to bighorn sheep and their habitat located within the Arkansas River Canyonlands ACEC to the west of the Sale Area.
This Alternative would have the greatest visual impact to the Arkansas River corridor as quarrying and extraction would be in high topography areas, almost all the way up to Cactus Mountain.
Public comments should be directed to BLM's Stephanie Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org by July 13.
Area Info and Public Comment Talking Points
The proposed quarry would expand onto high-quality wilderness-eligible public lands that are of utmost importance to Colorado wildlife and primitive recreation. This would permanently impair, and indeed destroy, the wilderness values of these lands.
The proposed quarry expansion in both the Proposed Action (Alternative A) and the Alternative Sale Area (Alternative C) would expand onto the eastern portion of BLM's 31,918 acre Echo Canyon Lands with Wilderness Characteristics (LWC), which the BLM documented in a 2015 report.
As a testament to its wilderness character, this areas has been proposed or Wilderness numerous times since 2003 as part of the Table Mountain proposed Wilderness, identified for its unique and extraordinary biological values. It was proposed for Wilderness as recently as the Colorado Wilderness Act of 2018, and this portion of the Table Mountain proposed Wilderness was only excluded from the Colorado Wilderness Act of 2019 due to minimize conflicts with the quarry expansion proposal.
The BLM must take into account the ecological value of managing the Table Mountain area to maintain its unique and extraordinary biological characteristics.
A portion of the Proposed Action area (Alternative A) is within BLM’s Arkansas Canyonlands Area of Environment Concern (ACEC), an area of nearly 24,000 acres recognized for outstanding recreation, scenic views, critical and valued species. Note Alternative C, the Alternative Sale Area, does not overlap with this ACEC.
The BLM must also consider impacts to riparian areas and wildlife corridors along Currant and Tallahassee Creeks. Tallahassee and Currant Creek both contain dense riparian vegetation.
In its 2015 Final Wild and Scenic River Eligibility Report, the BLM noted that the Tallahassee Creek corridor provides habitat and migration corridor for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, mountain lion, black bear, and BLM sensitive Gunnison’s prairie-dog, and that its corridor is occupied by river-dependent federally protected or BLM species: bald eagle, Mexican spotted owl, American peregrine falcon, and scaled quail.
The BLM noted that Currant Creek corridor supports a regionally significant population of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, which provides bighorn production area, summer concentration area, and winter concentration area; that it also provides habitat and migration corridor for elk, mule deer, mountain lion, black bear, and BLM sensitive Gunnison’s prairie-dog; and that it is occupied by river-dependent federally protected or BLM species: bald eagle, Mexican spotted owl, American peregrine falcon, and scaled quail.
The BLM must consider how granting the permit could impact the nearby McIntyre Hills and Grape Creek Wilderness Study Areas and proposed Wildernesses. Factors impairing the wilderness and wildlife value of the one area therefore could significantly affect the others. For example, the Bighorn Sheep Canyon herd of bighorn sheep range on both sides of the Arkansas River, which for much of the year does not present a substantial barrier to their movement.
The BLM should defer consideration of the project until completion of the ongoing Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan. With the RMP process nearing completion, we believe that the reasons for deferral are even stronger than previously stated.
This does not need to be rushed. The existing quarry has sufficient materials to continue to operate for an additional 15 to 30 years.
While the environmental impacts of granting the permit application are clear and easily determinable, the economic and socioeconomic impacts of granting it are much less certain and ascertainable. It therefore would be improper to give them greater or conclusive weight when compared against the environmental impacts.
The BLM is no more able to predict economic needs and conditions one hundred years from now than it would have been able to predict present conditions in 1919. If the materials to be mined from the BLM parcel are as essential as the public meeting presentation materials seem to indicate, the BLM must consider the likelihood that if the permit were to be denied, the materials would be obtained from other sources in other locations.
BLM Parkdale Quarry Maps (Overview, Site, & Alternatives A, B, & C)
BLM Parkdale Quarry Proposed Expansion Overview Map 2020. Click for BLM's PDF version.
BLM Parkdale Quarry Proposed Expansion Site Map 2020. Click for BLM's PDF version.
BLM Parkdale Quarry Alternative A Map 2020. Click for BLM's PDF version.
BLM Parkdale Quarry Alternative B Map 2020. Click for BLM's PDF version.
BLM Parkdale Quarry Alternative C Map 2020. Click for BLM's PDF version.
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