Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 7, 2017

Contact:  Michael Saul, (303) 915-8308,

Trump Administration OKs Climate-destroying Coal Development in Roadless Colorado Forest

DENVER, Colo.— The Trump administration issued its final environmental review today proposing to approve Arch Coal’s application to expand West Elk’s coal mine leases into 1,700 acres of roadless wildlands in the Gunnison National Forest, about 40 miles southwest of Aspen, Colo. The plan would green-light exploratory drilling and miles of road construction in order to mine 17 million tons of coal within pristine roadless forest that is habitat to black bear, elk, beaver and lynx.  

The mining and combustion of the coal would generate more than 49 million tons of equivalent carbon dioxide pollution.

“The Trump administration is doubling down on coal at the expense of our climate and Colorado’s spectacular, irreplaceable high country forest,” said Michael Saul, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Colorado communities recognize that clean energy is the future. We’ll fight to block this outrageous Forest Service decision and preserve these pristine public lands for future generations.”

“The Trump administration’s rubber-stamping of Arch Coal’s mine expansion displays its utter contempt for our national forests, our public health and public opinion. More than 100,000 people signed petitions and letters opposing this project for the damage it would cause to wild forests and our climate,” said Matt Reed, public lands director with High Country Conservation Advocates. “Trump ignored them all to benefit a mine that already has nearly a decade of dirty coal already under lease. This will allow Colorado’s single worst methane polluter to continue fouling the air and our climate for years to come without even seriously considering limiting that pollution. We will keep fighting to protect Colorado’s forests from this damaging proposal.”

The Forest Service’s “draft record of decision” starts a 45-day period in which the public may file formal objections challenging the legal basis for the mine expansion. The groups expect to file objections. The Forest Service will have 45 days after objections are filed to rule on them and issue a final decision. If the lease expansion is approved, construction could begin in the spring of 2018.

More information on the West Elk mine’s expansion proposal and its impact, as well as photos, can be found at

Groups joining the Center in pledging to continue opposing the plan include High Country Conservation Advocates in Crested Butte, Colo., Wilderness Workshop in Carbondale, Colo., Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians.

The Forest Service’s final environmental impact statement on the mine expansion, released today, is at: (28 megs).

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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