I-25 billboard about Sand Dunes: “Wish you weren’t drilling here!”

A conservation group has a new billboard taking public aim at a Trump administration plan to allow drilling near the Great Sand Dunes.

“Wish You Weren’t Drilling Here!” reads the post-card style sign on Interstate 25 south of City Center Drive. “Stop Trump from fracking the doorstep of Great Sand Dunes National Park.”

The ad campaign by Center for Western Priorities was spurred by the Trump administration’s proposals to lease land near the park for oil and gas drilling. The Interior Department temporarily has tabled the proposal, but is expected to continue pushing it after the November election.

The area targeted is 29 square miles adjacent to the eastern boundary of the park in south-Central Colorado, which draws about 320,000 visitors a year.

Conservationists say drilling would choke off the area as a migration corridor for elk and bighorn sheep. Leaders of the Navajo Nation, which owns a ranch in the area near Blanca Peak in the Sangre De Cristo mountains, say the feds didn’t consult with them about the proposal. They’ve demanded a consultation with Trump’s Interior Department – a process that has delayed the drilling auction beyond September, when it was originally scheduled.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, a former oil and gas geologist, has not taken a stance on the proposal.

“We need leaders who will put the people who live, work, and play on these lands ahead of oil and gas companies and special interests,” the Center’s executive director, Jennifer Rokala, said Friday. “This campaign sends a very clear message to our leaders in Washington: We must stop President Trump from drilling the doorsteps of our national parks.”

The Colorado-based group also is opposing threats to drill near Canyonlands National Park in Utah and Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.

Flickr Creative Commons photo by Andrew E. Russell