Sportsmen object to hasty North Park oil and gas lease sale

A coalition and hunting and fishing groups Thursday protested a May 13 oil and gas lease sale on 14 parcels of U.S. Bureau of Land Management land totaling 11,400 acres in North Park.

Led by Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development and including groups like Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Federation, the coalition argues the BLM needs to first finish a pending revision of its 1991 resource management plan for the isolated area along the Colorado-Wyoming border.

“BLM would be putting the cart before the horse if it leased North Park prior to updating its management plan,” National Wildlife Federation’s Bill Dvorak said in a release. “If that happened, you couldn’t undo it – even if the new plan recommended not drilling in some places.”

The groups are concerned about the potential impacts of drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the North Platte River drainage, designated a Gold Medal trout fishery by the Colorado Division of Wildlife and as a Blue Ribbon trout stream by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

About 15 miles northwest of Walden, the area is considered prime winter range for moose and elk and includes elk and mule deer migration routes and breeding habitat for sage grouse.

“We’re not saying oil and gas development should be prohibited in North Park,” said Brad Powell, energy director for Trout Unlimited. “But we should let the planning process play out and ensure that proper protections are in place before making any long-term commitment to oil and gas development on these leases.”

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