Dan Gibbs is a busy guy these days, but the new executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources isn't complaining.
"It's really exciting to be working on land, water, wildlife, oil and gas and minerals. There's just a lot going on right now," he said in an interview Thursday during a visit to the Western Slope.
The Summit County resident, who has roots in the Gunnison area and got his bachelor's degree at Western Colorado University, loves outdoors activities from trail running and mountain biking to hunting and fishing. He now finds himself running a department that is all about the outdoors, from wildlife management and public lands access to regulating development of natural resources in a way that protects people and the environment.
Front and center in terms of the work Gibbs is now doing is implementation of Senate Bill 181, the oil and gas bill Gov. Jared Polis signed into law in April. Gibbs said implementation of the measure is one of three major goals Polis has given him to carry out as DNR director.
Gibbs is undertaking that task in part as a member of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, where he also is serving as the commission chair, running its meetings.
"I think things are going well, overall," he said of the initial work the commission has done starting to put the new law in place through regulations.
He's happy that the commission was able to pass an initial set of rule changes that address things including expanding the authority of hearing officers to preside over some hearings that previously had to be handled by the commission.
Commission meetings these days have featured considerable public comment, much of it from people who remain concerned about impacts from oil and gas development in the state even with all the regulatory changes Senate Bill 181 requires.
Gibbs notes that he's a former Summit County commissioner and state lawmaker.
"I very much appreciate public comment. I sat for hours in public comment meetings. I say the more the merrier."
But while he considers those comments important to the process, he said that as chair of the COGCC he won't tolerate people hijacking meetings. At the last COGCC meeting, he briefly suspended proceedings after oil and gas activists repeatedly interrupted people voicing views supportive of the industry.
"I feel like it's the Colorado way that we can listen to different perspectives," he said.
The commission is planning upcoming meetings in various parts of the state specifically to hear from people in different areas. One will be held in Glenwood Springs Aug. 21-22.
"We want to hear from people from this area, what they want us to consider, what they like, what they don't," he said.
Responding to public concerns, the COGCC has decided to accelerate the timeline for the rulemaking focusing on SB 181's change in the commission's mission from fostering oil and gas development to protecting public health, safety, wildlife and the environment.
"We thought that, let's move that up because that (mission change) is going to affect everything we do moving forward," he said.
At the same time, he said the agency continues to authorize oil and gas development while its rulemaking processes continue, based on review criteria designed to ensure consistency with SB 181. Gibbs said 339 drilling permits have been issued since SB 181's signing, along with 40 drilling location permits.
"Permits are getting out the door," he said.
Meanwhile, Gibbs said he's also pursuing the two other major goals Polis set out for him. One involves exploring new, sustainable revenue opportunities for the funding of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. It now has an enterprise status, relying on revenues from sources such as hunting and fishing license sales. But Gibbs said just a small percentage of people moving to the state buy licenses. He said the state may explore ideas such as establishing a foundation, charging a fee on new mountain bike purchases if bikers support that, or selling habitat stamps to users of the outdoors.
The third big goal Polis set for Gibbs is protecting public lands and adding new access points. CPW and the State Land Board have taken initial steps in this direction when it comes to the Public Access Program, which provides limited, seasonal hunting and fishing opportunities on state trust land. The CPW Commission recently approved a multi-year expansion of the program, including adding up to 100,000 acres of access by this fall's hunting season.