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Grand Junction Sentinel (Colorado): Shell, DOW finish 5,100-acre land swap

By BOBBY MAGILL The Daily Sentinel

Thursday, May 31, 2007

An exchange of more than 5,000 acres of land in northwest Colorado between the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Royal Dutch Shell is being hailed by the state as a victory for both hunters and wildlife.

Under the proposal, the DOW will deed 3,108 acres of land and water rights in the Piceance State Wildlife Area in Rio Blanco County to Shell. In exchange, the energy company will transfer to the DOW 1,800 acres between the two parcels of the Oak Ridge State Wildlife Area, which is east of Meeker near the Flat Tops. The transfer will connect the two parcels, increasing Oak Ridge’s size to about 11,100 acres, DOW spokesman Randy Hampton said.

“It’s a good deal for sportsmen, good deal for wildlife,” Hampton said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday gave its stamp of approval to the exchange, saying it will present no significant environmental impact. No members of the public raised concerns about the exchange after it was first announced earlier this year.

The DOW’s Piceance parcels in the exchange were hard to manage and difficult to access, Hampton said.

“We’re getting a pretty good piece of land out of (the exchange),” he said.

Oak Ridge is prime elk wintering range, replete with rolling ridges and oak brush, he said.

The Piceance parcels are valued at about $3 million, while Shell’s Oak Ridge parcel was appraised at $2.8 million. To make up the difference, the company will pay the state $129,000 in cash, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Hampton said the most popular areas within the Piceance State Wildlife Area will remain open and are excluded from the land exchange.

Shell spokeswoman Darci Sinclair said Shell doesn’t have final plans for the Piceance parcels it acquires.

Such land exchanges, she said, “are a regular part of doing business for Shell.”

The company plans to conduct testing on its in situ oil shale extraction method on three Bureau of Land Management leases nearby, she said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service was required to approve the land exchange because the DOW acquired the parcels for the Piceance State Wildlife Area from the federal government under a law providing aid for wildlife restoration. The law requires the Fish and Wildlife Service to analyze potential environmental harm caused by the disposal of land acquired under the law.

Bobby Magill can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].
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