Wildlife Federation urges citizens, sportsmen to help protect Colorado wildlife from drilling | SkyHiNews.com

Wildlife Federation urges citizens, sportsmen to help protect Colorado wildlife from drilling

Katie Looby
Grand County, Colorado
Katie Looby / Sky-Hi Daily News

National Wildlife Federation Public Lands Organizer Bill Dvorak on Thursday gave a presentation at Middle Park High about finding a way to balance oil and gas development with a healthy wildlife population in Colorado.

In the past decade, the Rocky Mountains have experienced a dramatic loss of fish and wildlife habitat because of irresponsible oil and gas drilling, according to Colorado Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development.

Colorado is one of the most threatened states, Dvorak said.

“Wyoming is more threatened then we are,” he said. “But we have significant oil and gas. In the whole Rocky Mountain West, there’s issues … We have more oil shale than any other state.”

Dvorak said more than 3.4 million acres of federal public lands in Colorado are currently leased for oil and gas development, an area almost as large as Connecticut. In the Rocky Mountains more than 30 million acres of federal public lands have already been leased for oil and gas development. Between 2001 and 2006, an average of 200 new oil and gas wells were drilled annually in “big game critical habitat on public lands.” This is more than double the number drilled each of the prior eight years, CSRED documents said.

“I hope they (the audience) realized there’s some serious threats from the oil and gas industry on wildlife habitat,” Dvorak said. “But they can be mitigated. We’ve had oil and gas in the West forever.

Colorado lawmakers recently passed legislation that requires the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to revise its rules protecting wildlife habitat, as well as the health and safety of the public. This legislation was “jumpstarted” by the Wildlife Guidelines and developed by the Colorado Wildlife Federation and Colorado Mule Deer Association; more than 60 Sportsmen’s groups throughout the state also supported it, according to CSRED.

The new rules have potential to conserve wildlife and minimize surface disturbances and habitat fragmentation, according to CSRED.

After Dvorak explained what was going on on public lands, he encouraged sportsmen to become activists.

“We need to get back to where we were eight years ago,” he said “We need people to become more active.”

Middle Park High School teachers Mara Kohler and Jack Dugwyler, who are both involved in the high school’s Adventure Education Organization, organized the event. The presentation was free and open to the public.

Kohler said she hopes students “got an awareness of how much change conscientious citizens can make.”

Junior Sarah Williams, 17, or Granby was one of the students who attended.

“I learned a lot about the oil drilling that’s going on in Colorado and its effect on wildlife,” she said

To make a difference, Dvorak encourages people to join Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development and join the campaign to bring balance to oil and gas development in the West.

” Katie Looby covers government and education for the Sky-Hi Daily News. You may reach her at 887-3334 ext. 19601 or klooby@skyhidailynews.com.

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