Our flight took us over the spectacular canyons of Dinosaur National Monument and the Green and Yampah Rivers, where 300,000 annual visitors spend $17 million a year. The BLM recently finalized a Master Leasing Plan for oil and gas development in the surrounding area, which identifies ecologically sensitive areas and balances the needs of energy developers with protections for the natural and cultural resources, night skies, and quiet, natural landscapes of the national monument. The Green River is the largest tributary to the Colorado River, which supplies water to more than 30 million people.
We saw oil and gas development in the White River Basin (the White River also flows into the Green), where plans include developing up to 15,000 more wells. The average horizontal well uses 11.6 acre feet of water per year. All oil and gas production methods require huge amounts of water to produce. All threaten to pollute the rivers. All leave behind toxic waste. All require fossil fuel energy to produce, lessening net gains from these environmentally devastating production methods. Balancing development and wildlife conservation in the area is also a challenge here in the "mule deer factory", where populations have declined since the oil and gas boom. Current population levels are at half of Colorado Parks & Wildlife's goal of 67,000.
Our flight also took in the Ouray Wildlife National Refuge, which is dependent on the health of the Green River, and includes approximately 19 square miles of bottomlands and river surface in six naturally occurring bottoms along the shallow Green River, considered by some as the most significant stand of riparian cottonwoods on the entire Green River and perhaps the entire Colorado River Drainage.