Colorado: Conservation groups say BLM gas-drilling plan for Piceance Basin threatens wildlife

Draft version may include outdated science

klj

One of the maps included in the BLM draft resource management plan shows the oil and gas potential in the Mesa Verde play area.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The next big battle over fossil fuel development in Colorado is shaping up in the Piceance Basin, where a new draft BLM land-use plan would permit up to 15,000 new oil and gas wells in what’s been called the state’s mule deer factory.

Conservation groups say the BLM plan uses obsolete data and isn’t supported by the best available science.

John Ellenberger, the state’s former big game manager, said the BLM plan is full of holes and doesn’t address some basic issues, including how baseline data on wildlife will be gathered. He called the management approach that could result in high levels of disturbance in key wildlife habitat “unprecedented.’’

“If something like this goes through as planned, the deer are going to exist at much lower densities than in the past,’’ Ellenberger said. “The other thing is how do hunters react to it? Hunters don’t want to hunt in an industrial zone, with pump jacks, derricks, roads and other fixtures. They’re not going to drive from Pennsylvania, California or Missouri to hunt mule deer in the West and have that kind of experience.’’ Continue reading

Global warming likely to result in net loss of biodiversity

New report says impacts to ecosystems accelerating

lkm

lkm

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A major new report suggests that climate change will probably result in a net loss in global biodiversity, as plants and animal species shift their geographic ranges and the timing of their life events — such as flowering, laying eggs or migrating — at faster rates than researchers documented just a few years ago.

The report, Impacts of Climate Change on Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Ecosystem Services, synthesizes the scientific understanding of the way climate change is affecting ecosystems, ecosystem services and the diversity of species, as well as what strategies might be used by natural resource practitioners to decrease current and future risks. It was prepared as a technical report on biodiversity and ecosystems to be used as scientific input for the 2013 Third National Climate Assessment.

“The report clearly indicates that as climate change continues to impact ecological systems, a net loss of global species’ diversity, as well as major shifts in the provision of ecosystem services, are quite likely,” said Michelle Staudinger, a lead author of the report and a USGS and University of Missouri scientist. Continue reading

Roan Plateau drilling plan heading back to court

Moonrise over the Roan Plateau. PHOTO COURTESY KURT KUNKLE.

Settlement talks fail, environmental groups pursuing their claim that a BLM management plan for the area is illegal

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The fate of Northwest Colorado’s Roan Plateau is back in the hands of a federal judge after a year-long series of settlement talks about an oil and gas drilling plan ended in deadlock.

The Roan Plateau, north of Rifle, is recognized as a biological hotspot for species diversity, including pure strains of native trout, rare plants and old-growth Douglas fir. It’s also a hotspot for natural gas, and a drilling plan approved under the Bush administration could result in thousands of new wells being drilled on the Plateau.

Conservation groups have spearheaded a fierce campaign to protect the plateau from industrial development, including a lawsuit that challenged the Bureau of Land Management-approved drilling plan, as well as the leases that have already been issued. The plan has been widely viewed as a sweetheart deal for former Vice President Dick Cheney‘s energy cronies. Continue reading

Travel: Top autumn bird-watching spots

A pintail duck at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge. PHOTO US FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuge system crucial for migrating waterfowl

By Summit Voice

The National Wildlife Federation has included three national wildlife refuges in its annual list of top sites to see migrating birds.

For snow geese and bald eagles, Missouri’s Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge is the place to be. Squaw Creek is in the Mississippi Flyway, where snow geese fly from their nesting grounds in North Dakota to southern wintering areas. They stop to feed in Missouri in early October. Continue reading

New report shows threats to Colorado wetlands

Many Summit County wetlands are well-protected by local rules, but Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 left some regulatory gaps. Wildife and conservation groups are advocating for passage of a federal law that would update the Clean Water Act.

New report highlights gaps in Clean Water Act protections for five Colorado wetlands, including a rare fen in nearby Park County

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A pair of U.S. Supreme Court rulings from 2001 and 2006 have put valuable Colorado wetlands at risk, according to a new report published jointly by the National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimted and Ducks Unlimited. A copy of the report is online at the end of this story.

Together, the court decisions limited to scope of federal wetlands protection by narrowing the definition of navigable waters. Across the country, about 20 million acres of valuable wetlands without visible connections to larger lakes and streams have been left without federal protection, according to the report released Feb. 9.

Without regulatory oversight, the small streams, ponds and bogs are subject to being filled or drained without any mitigation. The cumulative losses could have significant impacts to water quality, flood control and wildlife habitat, the conservation groups said.

In Summit County, local wetlands regulations have filled the regulatory gap to some degree, but planning officials have been discussing updates to the wetlands regulations to address the changes resulting from the Supreme Court decision.

Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,960 other followers