Hunters and anglers have pushed for oil and gas leasing reforms to be used in Colorado's North Park, a renowned hunting and fishing area. Image: Jack Dempsey
DENVER – The Bureau of Land Management’s final plan for an important fish and wildlife area in northern Colorado was improved to include safeguards for habitat, but it still falls short of adequately protecting the watershed that supports a renowned fishery, a national sportsmen’s coalition said Thursday.
Members of Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development welcomed the inclusion of a master leasing plan in the BLM’s final resource management plan that includes North Park, often described as Colorado’s Serengeti. The SFRED partners added they hope the BLM builds on its experience writing the North Park master leasing plan, or MLP, to more thoroughly balance oil and gas development with wildlife and recreation concerns as it updates its management plan for public lands in South Park in central Colorado.
An MLP was among the Interior Department’s onshore oil and gas leasing reforms announced in 2010 and are intended as landscape-level assessments where important wildlife, environmental and mineral resources overlap.
Here are comments from SFRED partners on the BLM’s Record of Decision on the Kremmling field office’s new resource management plan:
“It’s heartening that the BLM responded to the concerns of hunters and anglers about North Park and included a master leasing plan as part of the updated management plan. However, the final plan lacks necessary protections for all the waterways that make the North Platte River one of the region’s stand-out trout fisheries. We look forward to working with the BLM in South Park to ensure the entire South Platte River fishery receives a high level of protection, not just one part of the whole.” ~ Corey Fisher, the energy team leader for Trout Unlimited.
“While the North Park MLP doesn’t meet all our expectations, we recognize that provisions to block surface disturbance on more than 180,000 acres of important habitat, and limit disturbance in other big-game areas, is a positive outcome. The SFRED partners have been working for years to make oil and gas leasing reforms an on-the-ground reality, and the North Park MLP is a marker in that progress.” ~ Ed Arnett senior scientist for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
“It makes sense to apply the master leasing plan tool to focus on North Park's renowned fisheries and wildlife. Recognizing that this is BLM's first time to apply the tool in Colorado, we are quite optimistic that the outcome in South Park will reflect the collaborative work that preceded the formal process and has continued with the official launch of work on the new plan for the area.” ~ Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation.
North Park is a high-elevation valley ringed by mountains. It’s home to moose, elk, deer, pronghorns, river otters, badgers, mountain lions, bears, the Gold Medal designated North Platte River and the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge, the second-largest producer of waterfowl in Colorado and a major stopover for migratory birds. The area also lies atop the Niobrara oil formation, a major deposit that is driving a drilling boom on the state’s northeastern plains.