Natural Resource Trustees announce conservation easement in Rocky Mountain Arsenal natural resource damages case

DENVER — Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and Colorado’s Natural Resource Trustees announced today that Shell Oil Co. has donated 100 acres of land adjacent to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge to Commerce City subject to a conservation easement to be held by Adams County. The easement is designed to restrict future development of the land and provide an open space amenity while allowing Commerce City to construct a 100-year flood detention basin.

“This donation of land and conservation easement will protect critical environment adjacent to one of the nation’s largest urban wildlife refuges,” Suthers said. “It represents another important step in the restoration and protection of the important landscape at Colorado’s urban-plains interface.”

“The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding Greenway space is a jewel for the Front Range,” said Martha Rudolph, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “An additional 100 acres of open space directly adjacent to the wildlife refuge will allow Commerce City to increase recreational opportunities and maintain the quality of life for its citizens for years to come. The department applauds Shell, Commerce City and Adams County for their dedication to this project and to the citizens of the state.”

“This cooperative effort will result in the protection of open space and wildlife habitat within Colorado’s front-range urban corridor, and it is symbolic of the progress being made toward achieving the long-term vision for the Rocky Mountain Arsenal and the Northeast Greenway Corridor,” said Bob Randall, deputy director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

The land and conservation easement donation comes as part of the state’s settlement of its 2008 natural resource damages claim against Shell for injury to natural resources at the Arsenal. (The state reached a settlement with the Army in 2009.) Pursuant to the settlement, the state received $27.4 million from Shell and the U.S. Army to fund Northeast Greenway Corridor projects and to restore and replace natural resources injured at the Arsenal. The Rocky Mountain Arsenal lies within the border of Adams County about nine miles northeast of downtown Denver. The U.S. Army established the Arsenal in 1942 to produce chemical and incendiary munitions for World War II. Following the war, munitions production decreased and the Army leased portions of RMA to Shell, which manufactured pesticides there from 1952 through 1982. Manufacturing and waste disposal practices used during these years resulted in extensive soil, surface water, sediment, ground water and structural contamination.

The Rocky Mountain Arsenal is one of the largest Superfund cleanup sites in the United States. Remedy construction is scheduled to end this year. Roughly 15,000 acres of Arsenal land has been transferred from the U.S. Army to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to establish and expand the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. The Army will retain approximately 1,000 acres of the site to maintain its landfills and ground water treatment plants.

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