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Public Input Sought for South Park Energy Development

PHOTO: The Bureau of Land Management wants public input for a master leasing plan for energy development in Colorado's South Park Basin, an area that supplies more than half of Denver's drinking water. Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall/Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: The Bureau of Land Management wants public input for a master leasing plan for energy development in Colorado's South Park Basin, an area that supplies more than half of Denver's drinking water. Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall/Wikimedia Commons.
June 17, 2015

DENVER - Conservationists are praising the Bureau of Land Management's decision to create a master leasing plan for oil and gas extraction in Colorado's South Park Basin.

The plan will allow hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers and local residents all to have a say in how, where and if energy development can go forward in the area in a responsible way. Suzanne O'Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation, said public input is a critical part of the process.

"South Park is a jewel in Colorado that supplies wonderful recreation opportunities," she said. "It is iconic, pristine. The South Park Basin provides about half of Denver's drinking water."

Located about 85 miles southwest of Denver, South Park also is renowned for its world-class fisheries and pronghorn, mule deer and elk herds, O'Neill said. According to the National Wildlife Federation, the basin generates more than $17 million for the local economy through wildlife-related recreation activities.

Starting in 2010, the feds introduced the MLP option as what they call "smart from the start" - taking a comprehensive look at the potential effects of oil and gas development, to avoid conflicts and lawsuits before leases are approved. Kyle Perkins, a Trout Unlimited field coordinator, said the goal is to create a balanced plan that protects public lands, wildlife habitat, and clean air and water, as well as farming, ranching and outdoor recreation.

"We want to ensure that hunter and anglers' rights are taken into account in that process," he said. "Public input is a major factor and the BLM wants to do it the right way."

The BLM has scheduled meetings in communities across Colorado to hear from the public, including one at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 24, at the Fairplay Community Center. A complete schedule of meetings is online at coloradowildlife.org or blm.gov.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO