Environment Colorado launches paid media campaign to protect national parks

Group, former park officials applaud CO BLM for taking first step, call for new protections
For Immediate Release

Contact: Margaret McCall, (c) 847-254-3240, (o) 303-573-3871 x 1, margaret@environmentcolorado.org 

Denver – Today, Environment Colorado launched a paid media campaign to protect Colorado’s national parks from oil and gas drilling.

Colorado BLM had proposed oil and gas leasing earlier this year near Dinosaur National Monument and Mesa Verde National Park. Colorado BLM State Director Helen Hankins deferred (delayed) offering that land up for leasing after public outcry from former National Park Service employees and local conservation organizations citing concerns to air quality, wilderness characteristics, and tourism and recreation values in the area.

“Dir. Hankins' decision to protect our parks by putting a hold on oil and gas leasing was a good first step. Now, the director should take critical steps to permanently protect our national parks,” said Margaret McCall, state field associate of Environment Colorado. “Our national parks embody the beauty of Colorado and our mountains, forests, rivers and canyons.”

The new billboard, which went up this week, is located on I-70 in Golden just west of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Colorado office. The billboard reads “CO BLM Director Hankins: Thank you. Please keep protecting our national parks from drilling” and features Mesa Verde National Park in the background.

Former Dinosaur National Monument Superintendent Denny Huffman agreed with the director’s decision to defer oil and gas leasing and the public call to provide permanent protection.

“I can’t think of a better way to ruin a national park experience than by putting a drill rig next to the visitor center,” said Huffman. “Dir. Hankins should be applauded for taking a step back. Now we need to pursue a smart from the start comprehensive strategy for energy development on public lands.”

One of the most widespread concerns about the proposed oil and gas development near Mesa Verde National Park was the fact that CO BLM was relying on a Resource Management Plan that was nearly 30 years old and contained only two paragraphs on oil and gas development.

“Dir. Hankins is doing right by reaching out to the National Park Service to determine how to best protect the air quality in Mesa Verde National Park. The science has developed by leaps and bounds over the past 30 years, and we need to ensure the best available data and strongest air quality protections are in place to protect the park,” said Rose Chilcoat, a former park ranger at Mesa Verde National Park.

As part of the paid media campaign, Environment Colorado is calling on Colorado BLM to take several steps to ensure the protection of our national parks, including direction by the Obama administration’s own advisory board on shale gas drilling, which urged the “[p]reservation of unique and/or sensitive areas as off limits to drilling[.]”

The group is also calling on Dir. Hankins to successfully implement to 2010 Interior Department oil and gas leasing reforms and implement a “Master Leasing Plan” for the “Dinosaur lowlands” area to ensure better planning and stronger protections for the monument and surrounding public lands.

The billboard will run through March 15.