U.S. de­lays de­ci­sion on drilling near Colo. park

Santa Fe New Mexican - - LOCAL & REGION - By Dan El­liott

DEN­VER — The U.S. govern­ment on Tues­day de­layed a de­ci­sion on a con­tentious pro­posal to al­low oil and gas drilling near Great Sand Dunes Na­tional Park in south­ern Colorado, say­ing it first wants to con­sult with the Navajo Na­tion, which owns land in the area.

The Bureau of Land Man­age­ment had planned to sell drilling rights on 29 square miles of pub­lic land east of the park at a Sept. 6 auc­tion, but Navajo of­fi­cials re­quested a for­mal con­sul­ta­tion, and the agency agreed.

The bureau said the land could still be of­fered at a fu­ture auc­tion.

A spokesman for the Navajo Na­tion didn’t im­me­di­ately re­spond to emails seek­ing com­ment.

The Navajo reser­va­tion — in Ari­zona, New Mex­ico and Utah — doesn’t in­clude Colorado. But tribal Pres­i­dent Rus­sell Be­gaye told the Den­ver Post the Nava­jos con­sider the area near Great Sand Dunes park to be part of their an­ces­tral lands and bought 26 square miles there last year.

“This land is sa­cred and the Navajo Na­tion will al­ways pro­tect the beauty and sa­cred­ness of the land,” he told the news­pa­per in May.

En­vi­ron­men­tal groups op­posed the sale of drilling leases, say­ing the land is too close to the park, a wilder­ness area and wildlife habi­tat. Some warned drilling waste or spills could threaten wa­ter qual­ity.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense they would choose this lo­ca­tion,” said Kim­ber­ley Pope, an or­ga­nizer for the Sierra Club in Colorado.

Some state and fed­eral of­fi­cials also raised ques­tions.

Great Sand Dunes park of­fi­cials were con­cerned about the ef­fects drilling could have on air qual­ity, noise and dark skies, ac­cord­ing to Fred Bunch, the park’s chief of re­source man­age­ment, who sub­mit­ted writ­ten com­ments to the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment about the po­ten­tial sale.

The bureau over­sees the sale of min­er­als un­der most fed­eral land.

The Colorado land un­der con­sid­er­a­tion for drilling is about 200 miles south of Den­ver and reaches to within a mile of the park’s eastern bound­ary. The sand dunes are about 4½ miles west, but moun­tains stand be­tween the po­ten­tial drilling sites and the dunes.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.