ROAN PLATEAU SETTLEMENT
DENVER (AP) – Federal and state officials say they have reached an agreement they believe will help protect the Roan Plateau while also encouraging natural gas development. Officials said Friday the settlement helps protect wildlife and supports opportunities for outdoor recreation and energy development. The settlement agreement between conservation groups and oil and gas leaseholders cancels 17 of the 19 leases issued on the plateau in 2008. It also refunds about $48 million in bonus bids and annual rental payments to the Bill Barrett company that owned the leases. The remaining two leases on top of the plateau and 12 leases located at the base of the plateau will remain in place.
IN OTHER NEWS…
GRAND JUNCTION (AP) – Investigators say they have arrested a man in the killing of a Colorado woman who led a double life as a devoted mom and a paid escort before she disappeared in 2007. Police on Friday arrested 63-year-old Lester Ralph Jones on charges of murder, kidnapping and arson in the death of 34-year-old Paige Birgfeld, of Grand Junction. Birgfeld’s remains were found in a dry creek bed in 2012. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s cold-case team was assigned the case. Birgfeld was twice divorced and lived with her three children. Friends knew her as a devoted mother and businesswoman. But a 46-page arrest affidavit against Jones also describes her escort service. Authorities say Jones, a longtime suspect, was a client.
DENVER (AP) – Colorado officials plan a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s decision to protect the Gunnison sage grouse, arguing it wasn’t warranted. John Swartout, an adviser to Gov. John Hickenlooper, said Friday state attorneys are reviewing the decision and will file a notice of intent to sue, a required first step. He didn’t know when that would happen. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this month listed the Gunnison grouse as threatened. About 5,000 remain, only in Colorado and Utah. Hickenlooper said officials should have given state and local conservation efforts a chance to work. Some environmental groups also plan to sue, saying threatened status is too weak and that the birds should be considered endangered, which carries stronger protections. Federal protection could bring restrictions on agriculture and oil and gas wells.