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: Colorado Wildlife Agency Says Feds Underestimated Effects of Drilling on Prized Plateau



From: Judith Kohler, Associated Press
Published April 25, 2005 12:00 AM

Colorado Wildlife Agency Says Feds Underestimated Effects of Drilling on Prized Plateau

DENVER — A draft federal report on gas drilling on a prized 3,000-foot high plateau underestimates the potential impact on wildlife, ignores science and lacks enough details to make predictions, state wildlife managers say.


The state Division of Wildlife comments, obtained by The Associated Press through an open-records request, also accuses the Bureau of Land Management of downplaying the economic benefits of hunting and recreation on the Roan Plateau.


"It does not describe the irreplaceable losses or the regional impacts which is required information," the division said of the BLM report.


The rich tableland, about 200 miles west of Denver, is prized for its wildlife, rugged terrain and abundant natural gas. Industry representatives say the nation urgently needs the natural gas locked in the plateau and in deposits across northwestern Colorado.


The Division of Wildlife says the document does not fully describe the project or its potential affect wildlife.


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"I think they are pretty strong comments. They get to the point that there are a lot of flaws in the document," said Pete Kolbenschlag, field director for the Western Slope office of the Colorado Environmental Coalition, which opposes drilling on the plateau's top.


The agency's comments are among at least 74,000 submitted this month on the proposed management plan for the Roan Plateau.


Steven Bennett, associate field manager of the BLM's Glenwood Springs office, said the agency may make corrections and clarifications in response to the comments in the agency's final environmental impact statement.


"It's normal to have changes in the document based on public comments," he said.


Opponents of wide-scale development argue that extensive drilling will deplete deer and elk herds and undermine the area's economy. The division estimates fishing, hunting and wildlife watching produce about $5 million a year for the area.


In their comments, wildlife managers said no scientific data in the federal study support the claim that incremental development could help deer, elk or other animals grow accustomed to oil and gas operations on the plateau.


The state officials also said there was a lack of data on the number and location of projected wells, preventing an accurate analysis of their effect on wildlife.


Source: Associated Press


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