The Colorado Department of Natural Resources estimates the Roan Plateau to have a stockpile of 5.5 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas worth about $22 billion. That’s a big number, $22 billion.
What would you trade for $22 billion?
A handful of peregrine falcons are known to have nesting sites in the Anvil Points area. Currently there are about 100 nesting sites in Colorado, up from zero in 1972. Would you take $22 billion to disturb the habitat of a couple peregrines and the prey that supports them?
The unroaded cliffsides of the Plateau provide seclusion and security for a variety of bird species including the golden eagle. Several golden eagle nests can be found clinging to the precipitous cliffs there. Would you trade $22 billion to build a road or a pipeline through their habitat?
The incessant traffic produced through the process of gas extraction will undoubtedly disturb the hunting territory of these birds, if not the nesting sites themselves. Can you live with that for $22 billion?
I’d be willing to bet that there are a few of you out there who’d have scrambled peregrine eggs for breakfast and golden eagle wings for lunch if it meant $22 billion in your pocket. If you’re one of those people, you might want to stop reading now. I don’t want you to feel forced.
Solitude is important to a variety of wildlife species, including some two-legged types. On the Roan, 125 species of birds, 33 species of mammals and 12 species of reptiles and amphibians make a home in relative seclusion from the human species.
For $22 billion, you could disturb the home, the habitat, the solitude and the quality of life for all of these species including, but not limited to, black bear, mountain lion, bobcat, fox, coyote, mule deer and elk. For extra credit, you could bother golden eagles, peregrine falcons, goshawks, Cooper’s hawks, turkeys, and possibly the elusive sharp-tailed grouse.
If you wanted to win the presidential medal for annoyance, you could set up your derrick in the midst of numerous rare, endangered, threatened and watchlisted species all at once. Would you do that for $22 billion?
A Preble’s shrew is hard to find. So is the Baird’s swallowtail and the green-winged hairstreak. The Parachute penstemon, the southwest stickleaf and the hanging garden sullivantia are found in such quantities on the Roan Plateau as to be considered a large percentage of the world population of each of the species. Add to that one of the rarest strains of native cutthroat trout in the state and for your $22 billion, you could impact them all. Would you do it?
Did I mention the state’s highest free-falling waterfall cascading into a series of pool drops? It happens to run through a canyon with walls that measure 2,000 feet from the creek bottom. You’d waste that view for $22 billion, wouldn’t you?
There’s a claystone cave and an arch up there as well. Because of their composition, they’re extremely vulnerable to change. Would you change them for $22 billion?
A 226-pound meteorite was found on the Roan Cliffs. It’s in the Colorado Museum of Natural History. The Smithsonian Institution found numerous fossils including insects, plants, fish, turtles and crocodilians. The plateau also contains 369 recorded cultural resources and many of the sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. What’s it worth to ya?
Is it worth maybe a pay raise for the county commissioners? Is it worth another paved dirt road? Is it worth all the extra traffic and pollution? Is it worth a decimated wilderness? Is it worth losing a fantastic concentration of varied and diverse species in a gorgeous location? Is it worth removing another place of solitude from the Colorado experience?
What will be your share of the $22 billion worth of retrievable gas on the Roan Plateau? My guess is, it ain’t gonna be nuthin’ compared to what we’re giving up.
Silt resident Bernie Boettcher’s column forces illiberals to read him every other Thursday in the Post Independent. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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