Wildlife agency protests Garfield drilling | VailDaily.com

Wildlife agency protests Garfield drilling

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

NEW CASTLE, Colorado ” The Colorado Division of Wildlife’s protest of a drilling underneath the placed against the Garfield Creek State Wildlife Area near New Castle may take up to six months to resolve.

Jamie Gardner, a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Land Management, said the agency will conduct a full “review and analysis” of the state agency’s protest.

“We will look back through our documentation, make sure that we didn’t miss anything and check that against what the protests say and do an evaluation of whether their concerns are adequately covered by the analysis we have already done and the protections we have in place,” Gardner said.

The Division of Wildlife wrote a letter to the land bureau in late January, asking that the sale of a mineral parcel underneath the habitat ” about 70 miles west of Vail ” be delayed indefinitely because the land on top “provides crucial winter range for deer and elk that are finding fewer and fewer places to inhabit without conflict.”

The land bureau, while deferring the sale of three leases, sold a 360-acre parcel. The Division of Wildlife, which protested 26 other sales across Colorado, could not block the New Castle sale because it doesn’t own the minerals underneath the wildlife area.

Randy Hampton, a spokesman for the Division of Wildife, said the Garfield Creek State Wildlife Area is “a critically important property.”

Land bureau regulations prevent gas companies from drilling from inside the wildlife area. The drilling will have to start from outside the wildlife area, a technique known as directional drilling.

But that doesn’t ease all the Division of Wildlife’s concerns, Hampton said.

For example, a drilling company could build its rig on private property right next to the wildlife life area, Hampton said.

“(That) still ultimately may cause a wildlife disturbance,” Hampton said.

And if owners cannot access the mineral lease from an adjoining property, they could ask the BLM for an exception to drilling regulations.

“That puts the BLM in a very difficult position to say no,” Hampton said “The better protection in our mind is to not lease it all.”

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