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A Growing CO Conflict ... Ranching and Hunting vs. Energy Development

February 15, 2007

For communities in Northern Colorado that depend on hunting, tourism and ranching, a new Bureau of Land Management plan to open up the majority of the Little Snake Resource Area to energy development is being met with concern. Local ranchers and sportsmen go so far as to say their way of life may be at risk.

The plan for a 1.3 million-acre parcel of land that stretches across two counties, Moffat and Routt, clears the way for more than 3,000 possible oil and gas wells, including drilling in a proposed wilderness area.

Suzanne Jones of The Wilderness Society's Colorado office says families who've ranched and hunted in the region for years are joining with conservationists to oppose the plan.

"This plan is out of step with protecting both the natural heritage and traditional lifestyle in Northern Colorado, and that includes ranching, sustainable use of the land, and wildlife hunting."

Only a small percentage of the Little Snake Resource Area would be preserved as wilderness and, therefore, be off limits to energy development. Jones says the ultimate impact is a virtual sell-out to the oil and gas industry.

"It fundamentally fails to protect the many other outstanding values of the area that are so important to local citizens like wildlife habitat, hunting opportunities and wild, open landscapes."

Supporters of the plan say it includes new ideas for minimizing the surface impacts of energy development, such as requiring developers to repair the surface damage they cause. They also claim such activities would not hurt ranching or hunting activities.

Dondrea Warner/Jamie Folsom, Public News Service - CO