Group reports on places that shouldn’t be drilled | PostIndependent.com
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Group reports on places that shouldn’t be drilled

The Wilderness Society’s new “Too Wild To Drill” report illustrates how wildlands across Colorado are being hit by oil and gas development. Of 17 special places highlighted nationally in the report, five are in Colorado, the most of any western state. The new analysis estimates that over the next 10-20 years at least 23,000 new oil and gas wells are anticipated in Colorado alone. In Garfield County, home to Roan Plateau, the annual number of new gas wells has tripled between 2004 and 2006. In nearby Rio Blanco County, where sage grouse and deer depend on undisturbed habitat, 10,000 new gas wells are projected over the next 20 years. Leasing of public lands is also continuing at a record-breaking pace even though as many as 61% of leased lands in Colorado have not yet been drilled or put into production. According to a prepared statement from the Wilderness Society, this energy policy raises the question of why the administration continues to lease additional special public lands – such as municipal watersheds, key wildlife habitat, roadless lands and proposed wilderness areas – when these lands are so important for other public uses. “Colorado is facing unprecedented threats to and demands on our public lands,” stated Suzanne Jones of the Wilderness Society. “If drilling continues at the pace set by the Bush Administration, Colorado’s landscape will be forever disfigured. Our wide-open vistas, watersheds, and much-loved backcountry will be marred by machinery, pollution, and the long-lasting negative impacts to our quality of life.” The Society’s “Too Wild to Drill” report highlights five special places across Colorado that are especially vulnerable to the expanding oil and gas drilling and are emblematic of the western landscapes that are threatened by the administration’s “drill everywhere” philosophy. These include the Roan Plateau, which rises 3,500 feet above the Colorado River near Rifle and is among the four most ecologically diverse places in the state, home to rare Colorado River cutthroat trout, a popular destination for hunting and other recreation, and includes 38,000 acres of proposed wilderness. Although Roan Plateau is already an island of wild country surrounded by booming natural gas production, the BLM recently proposed opening all of Roan Plateau to gas development and the drilling, roads, traffic, and habitat fragmentation that comes with it. Other wild places include the Vermillion Basin in northwest Colorado, Clear Fork Divide, Grand Mesa Slopes and the HD Mountains in the San Juan National Forest.”Oil and gas development is a legitimate activity on public lands, but the administration is not meeting its responsibilities to balance this development with its legal obligations to protect the air, water, and wildlife,” said William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society. “We are about to see gas drilling at a magnitude greater than anything we’ve experienced, and it threatens to forever damage many of our most treasured Western places.”Too Wild to Drill provides an update on the current energy status for each of the profiled areas, analyzes what’s at stake in that particular region, highlights local individuals and groups involved, and offers potential solutions to balancing oil and gas development while protecting many of the natural resources that enhance the West’s quality of life. The executive summary of the report has detailed information and sourcing on acreage now under lease, drilling permits, actual wells drilled, and alternative ways of helping America achieve energy independence. The report is available at http://www.wilderness.org/toowildtodrill.


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