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Sportsmen urge support for measured approach to oil shale development

DENVER – Hunters and anglers, who continue to urge caution on oil shale development, have released new videos and launched a campaign advocating more research and results from test sites before commercial leases are issued on federal public lands.

Three short videos titled ``Shale Country: That was then…this is now’’ explore the uncertainty about oil shale development, including its effects on water quality and quantity. Currently, no commercially viable oil shale production exists in the United States.

The videos, released Wednesday by Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development, make the case to approach oil shale development carefully while keeping public lands hunting and fishing opportunities intact.

The Bureau of Land Management has proposed this approach in a plan that would require companies to prove they have a workable, environmentally sound technology before they can pursue commercial leases. The SFRED coalition, led by the National Wildlife Federation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited, is also asking the public to show support for BLM’s oil shale and tar sands plan.

``Water is a precious resource in the semi-arid Rocky Mountain West. Hunters, anglers and everybody who cares about water, fish and wildlife must speak out loudly and clearly for a careful, thoughtful path forward,’’ said Brad Powell, senior policy director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. 

The final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement released earlier this month would open about 830,000 acres of public land in western Colorado, southwestern Wyoming and northeastern Utah to potential commercial production after research and development are completed. The BLM will consider protests and feedback from officials with the states before adopting a final plan.

Perhaps most important to a calculated approach to oil shale is the question about water. A recent SFRED report stresses that commercial oil shale production would require large volumes of water, straining such crucial Western water sources as the Colorado River and threatening fish and wildlife. The ``Shale Country’’ videos highlight those concerns as well as fears that a premature push for commercial development could lead to the kind of economic quake that rocked western Colorado after Exxon abruptly closed its oil shale operation in May 1982.

Some of the voices from ``Shale Country’’:

``We’re kind of the canary in the mine – sportsmen— because the bald eagle doesn’t know about oil shale. The brown trout don’t know about oil shale. The deer and elk in this area don’t know about oil shale. We better know about oil shale because we become their voice.’’
Kent Ingram, Colorado Wildlife Federation

``Water is a finite resource. We’re not making any more of it, and we have to have water for our communities, for our farms. And we need water for the rivers and for the fish.’’
Ken Neubecker, Colorado Trout Unlimited

``We need some answers to all of the unknowns, including the unknowns about the water – quality and quantity – before we can say `go’ or `no go’ on the industry.’’
Melinda Kassen, J.D., WaterJamin Legal & Policy, author of ``Water Under Pressure: What oil shale could mean for Western Water, Fish and Wildlife.’’

``It was a regional depression for probably about 10 to 12 years. It took a long time for this area, and Rifle in particular, to recover from that.’’
Keith Lambert, Rifle councilman, on the fallout from the 1982 oil shale bust.

``If companies would really spend their dollars on research and development they might figure out a way to do this. But they need to go slow. We cannot have more booms and busts.’’
Andrew Gulliford, historian and author of ``Boomtown Blues: Colorado Oil Shale’’

Learn more by watching the videos here.



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