Former Park Rangers Want to 'Clear the Haze' in CO Energy Development
DURANGO, Colo. – On Thursday, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend, the new visitor center was dedicated at Mesa Verde National Park – and some folks in attendance noticed a distinct haze on the skyline.
That's one side effect of oil and gas drilling in the area, and a group of former park rangers says it's unacceptable.
Park Rangers for Our Lands sent a letter this month to Helen Hankins, the director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Colorado State Office, asking that her agency develop Master Leasing Plans for land adjacent to Mesa Verde and Dinosaur National Monument.
Former ranger Rose Chilcoat says a "full speed ahead" approach to drilling just doesn't work for every corner of Colorado.
"I think that the American people don't really get the picture of what will be in the background of their national park photos,” she says, “if we don't put the brakes on energy development on adjacent public lands."
Ellis Richard, founder of Park Rangers for Our Lands, says the feds already have the tools in place to ensure that public comment is taken earlier in the leasing process.
"That's why we call it 'Smart from the Start,'” he says. “Get it done now, and once you've identified all the issues and mitigations, then you shouldn't have any trouble down the road with the leases. They should be implemented, and they should work."
The high point of Mesa Verde is called Far View, and Chilcoat – who was a park ranger there in the 1980s – says some days, it isn't a high point in terms of the scenery.
"That was part of Mesa Verde was being up on top and looking out and seeing this great vista,” she says. “That isn't happening as much anymore. Same with all of our western national parks – air quality is a huge issue. And the energy industry is definitely a contributor in that deterioration."
Park Rangers for Our Lands says it isn't against drilling, but wants the BLM to work more closely with the National Park Service and local communities when potential leases border national parks and monuments.