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Saving the Sagebrush Sea: An Imperiled Western Legacy

Nearly 350 plant and animal species depend on sagebrush habitat for their survival.


Western Public Lands

Colorado Archives

Colorado Divisions of Wildlife and Parks to Merge

On March 8, 2011, Governor Hickenlooper announced that plans will be made for Colorado Division of Wildlife and Division of Parks to be combined into one agency
(click here to read the press release) .  Legislation is being drafted first to combine the Wildlife Commission and the Parks Board into one body, effective July 1, 2011.  During this year, a transition planning team will work to define and prioritize the many complicated issues.  Additional legislation will be needed in 2012 to address numerous issues.   CWF believes it is essential that the transition planning be transparent and stakeholders have a meaningful role in this process.  See the statement below that CWF released on March 10 immediately before the joint meeting of the Wildlife Commission and the Parks Board.  CWF's Board Chair also made public comment.  CWF will update our website again when the legislation is introduced and as new developments occur.

New Oil and Gas Regulations for Colorado

On Wednesday, April 22nd, Governor Ritter signed into law new rules for oil and gas development.  The new regulations will update 30 year old public health, water and wildlife protections for oil and gas drilling. 


In 2007, the Colorado State Legislature passed a key bill requiring the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to write new rules with the Colorado Dept of Public Health and the Division of Wildlife to better protect wildlife and the general public during oil and gas operations.

After an 18-month rulemaking marathon, Colorado adopted the most comprehensive state oil and gas drilling regulations in the nation on December 11th, 2008.

The 177 pages of rules — aimed at better managing oil and gas development, protecting wildlife, and reducing impacts on people living near drilling operations — were passed unanimously by the state's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Among the protections the regulations impose are:

  • A 300-foot no-drill buffer around streams used for drinking-water supplies.
  • Controls on odors and dust on operations within a quarter-mile of homes in Garfield, Mesa and Rio Blanco counties — all major areas for natural- gas development.
  • A requirement that drillers consult with the state Division of Wildlife on mitigation plans if they drill in designated wildlife areas.

On Friday, March 13th, the Colorado State House passed the new oil and gas rules by a vote of 50-13. Then on Wednesday, March 25th, the Colorado State Senate passed the new rules by a vote of 21-13. The bill took effect on April 1st.

Why do we need these rules?

  • Colorado issued a record 6,368 drilling permits last year, six times the 1999 number, and state officials say more than 7,000 could be approved this year. Tens of thousands of new gas wells are expected on federal land alone over the next 20 years.
  • Just one year ago, 1.2 million gallons of drilling mud - a cocktail of oil and chemicals - created a serious health hazard in what is known as the Garden Gulch Spill.
  • From January of 2003 to March 2008 there were 1,549 spills or seepage incidents in Colorado.

Read the Final Rules

Fact Sheet

Forest Service Pulls Public Lands in Colorado from Lease Sale

The U.S. Forest Service pulled 57 parcels from a recent offering of public lands for oil and gas development in Colorado. The area comprised over 66,000 acres in the Grand Mesa, Uncompaghre and Gunnison National Forest. .

Removing the pacels leaves only 12,200 acres in 28 scattered parcels for auction on Thursday. The removal came after protests and opposition from a number of local conservation groups as well as the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Criticism focused on the fact that the lease parcels were selected based on an outdated 1993 management plan with dated science on how drilling might affect land and wildlife. Some parcels were also in the watershed which supplied drinking water to the town of Norwood, southwest of Montrose.

BLM Issues Drilling Leases on Roan Plateau

Updated September 30, 2008

On Monday the Department of Interior issued oil and gas leases on the Roan Plateau, dismissing nearly 15,000 protests submitted by groups and individuals against drilling.

The leases, covering nearly 55,000 acres, had been auctioned off by the Bureau of Land Management, on August 14th. But the leases couldn't be issued to the winning companies until the protests had been resolved.

The lease sale yielded about $114 million. Although that is a record for a single onshore oil and natural gas lease sale in BLM history in the lower 48 states, it is far lower than expected. It's well below the $300 million estimate the BLM had said the leasing of the Roan might generate, and the $2 billion the industry advocacy group Americans for American Energy had said last year might be bid for the leases.

Earlier in the year, Governor Ritter had called for revisions to the resource management plan, which would have expanded the size of four wildlife protection zones, reduced the areas permitted for surface drilling and phased-in leases on the top of the plateau over several years. However, the BLM ignored Ritter's proposal. U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, Rep. John Salazar and Rep. John Salazar had hoped to move a bill through Congress to require phased leasing of the Roan Plateau but the legislation was never voted on.

As the Department issued the leases yesterday, a group of 10 conservation organizations filed an injunction, requesting a federal judge block the BLM from issuing oil and gas leases before the court decided on a lawsuit they filed in July. The lawsuit argues that the agency's plan for natural gas development violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).


Read more about the Roan Plateau.

Read the entire article from The Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Colorado Roadless Rule

Today, Colorado has 4.4 million acres of roadless areas. These areas provide critical habitat for elk, lynx and other wildlife, protect vital watersheds that ensure clean drinking water and provide abundant recreation opportunities.

Roadless areas are exactly that -- places where no roads have been built and where, as a result, no development has occurred. With sprawl and development occurring at a near record pace, roadless areas are vital in keeping Colorado's wild lands truly wild.

The 2001 Roadless Rule, which the Colorado Roadless Rule is designed to replace, has been the subject of litigation since it was introduced. In response to the ebb and flow of administrative regulation and litigation regarding a national roadless rule, the State of Colorado independently developed and recommended roadless area regulations.

A strong Colorado Roadless Rule can help preserve the wildlife values of Colorado roadless forests. The proposed rule currently includes a number of exemptions that would provide for some roads in these areas. To tighten up the rule and close the loopholes:

  1. No exceptions should be made for roads for oil and gas development -- this needs to apply to ALL leases issued since 2001.
  2. Rules for fuels reduction should be tightened to ensure that they focus on those limited areas where there's a real risk to homes or structures.
  3. The Forest Service acknowledges there's no demonstrated need for new roads for livestock operations -- it should therefore not adopt such an exception.
  4. "Logging for wildlife" should occur in roadless areas only under those limited circumstances when it's needed to conserve a threatened or endangered species.
  5. Any Colorado rule should include clear safeguards to make sure that roadless characteristics aren't lost unless no other alternative exists, and that new roads are reclaimed once they've served their purpose.

See the latest on Colorado's Roadless Rule...

North Park Drilling


 North Park, Colorado
Map of Federal Leases in North Park -- View Large Map

Colorado's North Park is located in North-Central Colorado near the Wyoming border. Surrounded by mountains like the Zirkel, Sierra Madre, Never Summer and Park ranges, North Park is about 1,500 square miles of streams, rivers, meadows and sage flats.


The area is home to more than 300 wildlife species, including large game herds and sage-grouse.

Currently EOG Resources, formerly Enron Oil and Gas, holds a majority of leases in the North Park area. EOG has estinated reserves in North Park at 10 to 80 million barrels of oil. Currently, there are less than 20 wells permitted in the area, except for the McCallum Oil Field, which has been in existence since the 1920s.

At issue in North Park is how mass drilling might affect water quality in the several headwater streams of the North Platte River, a 680-mile waterway that sustains agriculture and recreation in three states. Also at risk is a migration route for a mule deer herd shared with Wyoming, along with Colorado's most thriving population of sage grouse.

At the request of the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agreed to suspend leasing in North Park west of Highway 125 until the BLM can complete new resource management plan. The new plan, which is due in the next four to five years, would incorporate some of the most recent science, including changing the stipulations on proximity to sage grouse leks.