Denver – Three oil and gas lease tracts on the South Park Basin were pulled from an upcoming February 17th Colorado State Land Board lease sale in a move advocates hailed as a victory for drinking water and wildlife.
“The South Park Basin is incredibly important for our drinking water and rich in wildlife resources,” said Matt Garrington, program advocate for Environment Colorado. “The Colorado State Land Board made a wise decision today recognizing that some areas are too sensitive to be drilled where the full impacts are not yet fully known.”
During comments before the Colorado State Land Board meeting, Minerals Manager Mark Davis cited concerns over drilling impacts to Antero Reservoir and a Gold Medal fishery on the Middle Fork of the South Platte.
The Colorado Wildlife Federation applauded Colorado State Land Board Commissioner Michele Bloom for requesting that state-owned land up for lease at the February 17th auction receive further review by the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW). At stake in the upcoming auction is wildlife habitat such as mule deer and pronghorn habitat in the South Park Basin and greater sage grouse habitat in Northwest Colorado.
“The State Land Board will auction lands with high wildlife values, such as severe winter range for mule deer and pronghorn and greater sage grouse habitat,” said Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. “It is absolutely critical that the State Land Board confer with the Division of Wildlife about how to best avoid, or at least mitigate, impacts to wildlife habitat.”
In 2010, the Colorado State Land Board reauthorized oil and gas leases in the James Mark Jones State Wildlife Area without consulting with the Division of Wildlife. Subsequently, the El Paso Corporation negotiated a surface use agreement in good faith with CDOW as required by the Colorado Oil and Gas Rules.
The South Park Basin provides fresh, clean drinking water for 1.5 million residents in the Denver Metro Area, including several drinking water reservoirs such as Antero Reservoir, Spinney Mountain Reservoir, and the watershed for the South Platte River.
“As a landowner I have concerns about impacts to water and wildlife,” said Eddie Kochman, former state aquatic wildlife manager for CDOW and South Park area landowner. “One thing is for sure, there has to be more coordination between local government, state agencies, water providers, and landowners before additional development occurs.”
Environment Colorado noted that the Coalition of the Upper South Platte, a regional stakeholder group, has constructed a two phase study which would monitor the impacts of current exploratory drilling in the South Park Basin and a full scale computer modeling study to better understand the potential impacts to large scale drilling to groundwater, rivers and streams, and the watershed. The group urged the Colorado State Land Board and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources to support full implementation of the study before large scale development can occur.
“It’s absolutely critical that we protect our drinking water,” said Garrington. “There are simply too many unknowns about the risks of full scale development in the South Park Basin.”
The Colorado Wildlife Federation is the state’s oldest and most effective wildlife organization representing sportsmen, other wildlife conservationists, and recreationists. For more information, visit: www.coloradowildlife.org.