Keep oil and gas away from Di­nosaur Na­tional Mon­u­ment

The Denver Post - - OPINION - By Char­lie Pre­ston-Townsend

One of the sin­gle most fas­ci­nat­ing ex­pe­ri­ences in na­ture is when wa­ter meets rock. The wa­ter ef­fort­lessly carves away sharp cor­ners of rock and cre­ates some of our coun­try’s most beau­ti­ful scenery and Amer­ica’s most iconic land­scapes.

This in­ter­ac­tion can be wit­nessed through­out the West and is es­pe­cially present in Di­nosaur Na­tional Mon­u­ment, where the Yampa and Green rivers come to­gether at Echo Park. Here, hun­dreds of wildlife species and hun­dreds of thou­sands of vis­i­tors en­joy and ex­pe­ri­ence the river each year. As stew­ards of the river we, the Friends of Yampa, plan to con­tinue pro­tect­ing and en­hanc­ing the river’s en­vi­ron­men­tal and recre­ational in­tegrity for gen­er­a­tions to come.

Float­ing down the river, vis­i­tors can ex­pe­ri­ence the his­tory here and the ef­fort that the Yampa has taken to cre­ate and carve out this land­scape. Di­nosaur Na­tional Mon­u­ment was es­tab­lished in 1915 to pro­tect a stun­ning quarry of pre­his­toric plant and an­i­mal fos­sils, and to­day the mon­u­ment in­cludes 210,844 acres of some of the finest nat­u­ral re­sources Colorado and Utah have to of­fer.

For all of these rea­sons, we ask the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment and Sec­re­tary of the In­te­rior Ryan Zinke to side with con­ser­va­tion by pre­serv­ing and pro­tect­ing Di­nosaur Na­tional Mon­u­ment, one of our state’s most cher­ished her­itage sites, for peo­ple to en­joy for gen­er­a­tions to come. Cur­rently, the BLM is propos­ing to lease lands for oil and gas drilling that are right next to the mon­u­ment’s vis­i­tor cen­ter and en­trance road; these leases would sig­nif­i­cantly im­pair the renowned scenery, pris­tine night skies and nat­u­ral quiet that makes the mon­u­ment such a spe­cial place. We feel this is the wrong di­rec­tion for the park to be tak­ing.

If these leases go through, this will only pave the way for ad­di­tional lands and rivers to be threat­ened by en­ergy devel­op­ment. The oil and gas in­dus­try has no busi­ness de­vel­op­ing near these spe­cial, price­less places, whether it be our na­tional mon­u­ments or na­tional parks, par­tic­u­larly when the in­dus­try is not us­ing so many of the leases and drilling per­mits that it al­ready owns.

In­stead of open­ing up some of our most iconic lands for drilling, we re­quest that the BLM lis­ten to lo­cal stake­hold­ers who live and work on this land and strike the right bal­ance be­tween con­ser­va­tion and devel­op­ment by re­ject­ing these pro­posed leases by Di­nosaur Na­tional Mon­u­ment.

Un­for­tu­nately, un­der the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, the BLM has started to place more fa­vor­able fo­cus on the oil and gas in­dus­try, rather than work­ing with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties to safe­guard im­por­tant places.

We are see­ing these in places like south­east­ern Utah, where a sep­a­rate oil and gas leas­ing pro­posal is threat­en­ing two other na­tional mon­u­ments — Canyons of the Ancients and Hoven­weep — and in Wy­oming, where there is a re­newed fo­cus on leas­ing in the habi­tat of the threat­ened greater sage grouse. In Colorado, our econ­omy and our her­itage de­pend on out­door recre­ation, so much of which takes places on our pris­tine public land and wa­ters.

Devel­op­ment on the doorstep of our na­tional mon­u­ments should never be con­sid­ered. The choice is stark, but Amer­i­cans have time and again af­firmed that our na­tional parks, mon­u­ments, and iconic land­scapes are some of our coun­try’s most pre­cious and en­dur­ing as­sets and should re­ceive the high­est level of pro­tec­tion. So, the de­ci­sion is ac­tu­ally quite clear: the BLM must pro­tect Di­nosaur Na­tional Mon­u­ment and keep public lands in public hands.

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