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Groups Push to Find Industry-Outdoors Balance in Dinosaur, CO

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 By Stephanie Carroll CarsonContact
December 23, 2013

DINOSAUR, Colo. - Conservation groups and outdoor recreation companies are asking the Bureau of Land Management to think about the big picture when it comes to approving oil and gas leases in Colorado. Of particular interest is oil and gas development near Dinosaur National Monument.

According to Jim Spehar, the former mayor of Grand Junction, adopting a Master Leasing Plan would help find a balance between the demands of industry and the needs of outdoor enthusiasts.

"The main ingredient that's missing in the leasing process is taking a look at the landscape level on the cumulative impacts of all these leases," he charged.

Recently the BLM has proposed leasing adjacent to park access roads at Dinosaur, and even near the visitors' center. Conservation groups such as the Wilderness Society, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and National Parks Conservation Association are encouraging the BLM to have a more balanced approach and to better manage game habitat, trout streams, air quality and the thousands of acres of land.

Adventure Bound River Expeditions has been open for business in the Dinosaur area for more than 50 years, and owner Tom Kleinschnitz said reckless oil and gas drilling could harm a commodity essential to his business.

"Well, any time there's visual and other impacts to nature, it just takes away from what I'm selling," he said. "When I sell river trips to back-country areas, having industrial zones don't work very well."

The concept of "Master Leasing Plans" was developed by the federal government after President George W. Bush authorized 77 oil and gas leases near Arches National Park and Dinosaur National Monument five years ago. Jim Spehar declared that the MLP approach, which has support from U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, is an appropriate one.

"So to do this MLP process, rather than just react to proposed leasing as was done earlier and then pulled back, is vitally necessary," he said.

In Colorado, outdoor recreation is a $13 billion industry, employing 125,000 people. Spehar added that that industry, as well as agriculture, will be supporting the economy, long after any oil and gas that is underground, would run out.

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