South Park, Colorado: Call before you drill
by Randy Scholfield
Great news for sportsmen who love to fish and hunt in Colorado: The BLM has announced new rules for managing oil and gas leasing in Colorado that should help preserve the health of millions of acres of pristine hunting and fishing lands in the state.
In recent years, the BLM has struggled to stay ahead of the sometimes breakneck pace of oil and gas development in the West. In 2010, the Interior Department launched a Master Leasing Plan (MLP) program in several states to provide more detailed, valley-to-peak assessments of natural resources and where oil and gas drilling should—and shouldn’t—take place.
The BLM move this week defers some 3 million acres in Colorado, putting them "on hold" for leasing while the agency develops MLPs that work to balance energy exploration with conservation goals.
These "look before you lease" plans are especially important for protecting sensitive wildlife areas and iconic landscapes beloved by the public--places like South Park and North Park in Colorado, vast Serengeti-like valleys renowned for world-class trout streams and herds of mule deer, elk, and pronghorn.
And in the long run, MLPs provide more certainty to oil and gas developers, by letting them know up front and in detail what standards they must meet for a particular lease parcel.
"It's common sense and good policy to hold off offering oil and gas leases in South Park while the community and land managers decide how to protect wildlife and other natural resources while allowing responsible energy development," said Bill Dvorak, a commercial outfitter and public lands organizer with the National Wildlife Federation. "We commend the Colorado BLM for paving the way to make that happen."
When it comes to developing energy on our public lands, it's important to "look before you lease"--or we risk losing some irreplaceable home waters.
Randy Scholfield is TU's communications director for the Southwest region.