Located in western Colorado, just northwest of the town of Rifle, the Roan Plateau is comprised of approximately 67,000 acres of public lands, with about 34,000 acres located on top of the plateau and the remainder below the rim. These lands vary widely from sagebrush scrubland below the rim to lush canyons on top, making for some of the most diverse fish and wildlife habitat in Colorado.
The Roan supports healthy populations of native, genetically pure Colorado River cutthroat trout and offers some of the state's best elk and mule deer hunting. This wealth of irreplaceable fish and wildlife habitat makes up less than 2 percent of the Piceance Basin, an area stretching from western Colorado to Utah, which has been heavily targeted for natural gas drilling. The Roan's fish and wildlife habitat is surrounded by land that is already being drilled extensively for natural gas. With more than 90 percent of the public lands in the Piceance Basin available for leasing, the intact fish and wildlife habitat found on the Roan is critically important. Today, the Roan Plateau is literally an island of trout and wildlife habitat in a sea of industrial development…and the island is getting smaller.
Despite protests from thousands of Colorado citizens and more than a dozen conservations groups, plus objections from Colorado's elected leaders, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) moved forward with its plan to drill this sportsmen's paradise. In August 2008, the federal agency sold leases for all of the public lands on the Roan Plateau. The lease sales were especially troublesome to local sportsmen who, four months earlier, witnessed the impacts of 1.2 million gallons of industrial drilling mud spilled into the Parachute Creek watershed from an adjacent drilling operation on private land.
As a last resort, several conservation groups, including Trout Unlimited and the National Wildlife Federation, filed a lawsuit to keep this small part of the Piceance Basin from turning into an industrialized zone. To date, there has been no settlement or court decision. Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, we remain hopeful that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar – who opposed the Roan lease sale as a Colorado senator – will help ensure that the most vulnerable and valuable lands on the Roan are protected.
Trout Unlimited and its local chapters have been engaged for more than 15 years with conservation of native cutthroat trout on the Roan Plateau, both through on-the-ground restoration projects and as advocates for the plateau's protection. This summer, Colorado Trout Unlimited volunteers will once again be on the Roan along Trapper Creek, planting willows as part of the multi-year effort to protect and restore these native trout fisheries.
You can help ensure a bright future for the fish and wildlife on the Roan Plateau by emailing Secretary Salazar  and thanking him for his past work to conserve the Roan Plateau. Ask that he continue to help sportsmen finish the job of protecting the Roan Plateau for trout, wildlife and future generations of sportsmen. You can also join Trout Unlimited  and our 140,000 members nationwide who work to keep the best wild places on our nation's public lands the best places to hunt and fish in the future.