Retired rangers eye drilling near national parks

ELLIS RICHARD: Member of Park Rangers for Our Lands

The Bureau of Land Management has tools to avoid conflicts between the energy industry and national parks, a small organization of retired National Park Service rangers says.

The organization, Park Rangers for Our Lands, came together around concerns about leasing near Dinosaur National Monument in northwest Colorado and Mesa Verde National Park in the southwest corner of the state.

Management of drilling in the vicinity of national parks should be “smart from the start,” Ellis Richard said on Wednesday.

Park Rangers for Our Lands is urging the BLM in Colorado to use master-leasing plans to deal with leasing of areas for drilling near national parks.

By doing that, the BLM could take greater control over the lands it manages, said Richard, now a Washington, D.C. resident.

With master-leasing plans, the oil and gas industry would know up front areas that would be off-limits to drilling and be aware of areas in which special restrictions would be required, Richard said.

The organization, which counts Greg Gnesios of Grand Junction, a former Park Service ranger and BLM employee, among its members, has written Helen Hankins, the Colorado state director of the BLM, urging her to use master-leasing plans for drilling proposed near both parks in Colorado.

BLM officials in Utah already are moving ahead with master-leasing plans, Richard said.

“There are definitely ways to make it palatable,” Richard said of drilling proposals near national parks.

The parks have to be protected, he said, because they offer “a glimpse of primeval America” that should be preserved.


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