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21,000 Acres of Public Lands in Colorado on the Auction Block in September
Denver – Conservation groups called on the Trump administration to cancel its plan to lease federal public lands for oil and gas drilling and fracking near western Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park and Blanca Peak without fully analyzing environmental or cultural harms.
WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Rocky Mountain Wild, San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, Sierra Club, and Wild Connections, submitted extensive comments last Friday on Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke’s proposal to auction off 21,000 acres of public lands in Colorado in September. Of the lands nominated for auction, 18,000 acres are located near Great Sand Dunes National Park and Blanca Peak. In the comments, the groups noted that the Bureau of Land Management conducted little to no analysis on the potential harm to Colorado’s clean air, streams, night skies, wildlife habitat, cultural resources, or the national park, from drilling and fracking.
“The area near Great Sand Dunes National Park is uniquely beautiful and very susceptible to the harms from drilling and fracking,” said Becca Fischer, a Climate Guardian with WildEarth Guardians. “Once BLM leases these lands, it cannot close the door to noise pollution, light pollution, and threats to our clean air and water. Yet, the BLM failed to conduct a meaningful analysis of these impacts.”
“This fracking plan would ruin some of Colorado’s most scenic, remote and valuable wildlife habitat,” said Diana Dascalu-Joffe, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Nothing is more important to the Trump administration than fossil fuel industry profits.”
"We should not be sacrificing these places, the wildlife there, history and opportunities to an outdated vision of energy independence," said Kimberly Pope, Sierra Club Our Wild America Organizer in Colorado. "We have an obligation to leave great natural places for others to experience."
“Despite Trump and Zinke’s desire to sell off public lands to oil and coal interests, Americans treasure our wild places and stand up for them,” said Nicole Ghio, Friends of the Earth’s Senior Program Manager, Fossil Fuels. “Together we have forced Zinke to back away from his plans to nearly triple some park fees for National Parks. We will not allow Trump and Zinke to degrade lands surrounding the Great Sand Dunes National Monument.”
Last month, in response to intense public pressure from conservation groups and others, Zinke removed public lands in New Mexico near Chaco Canyon National Historical Park and in Montana near Yellowstone National Park from the auction block based on cultural and environmental concerns.
Despite this, the pace of federal public lands approved for leasing by the BLM continues to drastically increase in 2018. In 2017, the BLM auctioned off more than a million acres of public lands for fracking in six Western states. The BLM’s proposed lease sales for the first half of 2018 in those same states already total almost 1 million acres.
Oil and gas leasing on federal public lands is a major contributor to global warming in the United States. Leasing opens the door for oil and gas drilling and fracking, and more fossil fuel burning. Reports indicate that 20% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions can be traced back to fossil fuel development from federal public lands and waters.