Colorado sportsmen polled on effects of oil, gas development | AspenTimes.com

Colorado sportsmen polled on effects of oil, gas development

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Post Independent fileChris Hunt of Trout Unlimited releases a brook trout that he caught in the calm waters of the East Fork of Parachute Creek during a July 2006 tour of the Roan Plateau north of Rife, Colo. The plateau is but one area of Colorado where competing interests " oil and gas extraction versus environmental and wildlife protection " are generating debate.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” A recent poll of 400 licensed hunters and anglers in Colorado reveals that 71 percent of them strongly believe the federal government should take more steps to protect wildlife and fish habitat from oil and gas extraction.

The poll, conducted by Harrisonburg, Va.-based Response Management, sought out the opinions of hunters and anglers in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and New Mexico about energy development activities in the Rocky Mountains and its possible impacts on hunting and fishing.

Respondents in the survey were identified through hunting and fishing licenses.

About 90 percent of those surveyed in Colorado were men. Most were between 45 to 54 years old, according to a summary of the poll.

The survey reported that 66 percent of Colorado hunters and anglers also thought that public lands should be managed equally between protecting fish and wildlife habitat and oil and gas development. The other 32 percent of respondents said public lands should be managed in favor of fish and wildlife habitat.

Colorado respondents ranked hunting and fishing as the top use of public land, according to the survey. Wildlife and fish habit management, outdoor recreation, watershed protection and renewable energy development all followed.

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Out of nine possible uses of public lands, Colorado hunters and anglers ranked oil and gas development as seventh, ahead of using public lands for timber cutting and livestock range.

The survey also found that Colorado hunters and anglers feel the best approach for oil and gas development is in the use of directional drilling, which reduces surface disturbances by allowing well pads to drill substantially more wells.

Behind directional drilling, Colorado hunters and anglers said the other best approaches for oil and gas development are to limit extraction of resources to areas where it won’t affect fish and wildlife, or to pace the amount of drilling in sensitive wildlife areas.

The poll was conducted for Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development, an umbrella group that includes Trout Unlimited, the National Wildlife Federation and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

“I think what the poll really does is that it confirms what our position as Trout Unlimited’s has always been, which is that we are not against oil and gas development, but that it needs to be done responsibly and (thrives) with existing land uses,” said Corey Fisher, energy field coordinator for Trout Unlimited.

Members of the Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development have worked with other organizations to address wildlife concerns about oil and gas development in the Roan Plateau Planning Area. In September, the Bureau of Land Management issued 31 drilling leases encompassing about 54,600 acres of the area.

pyates@postindependent.com

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