Ecoflight flew the National Wildlife Federation over oil and gas operations in North Park. Sometimes called the Serengeti of Colorado, North Park is a basin in the Rocky Mountains in north central Colorado. It is surrounded by mountain ranges that are the headwaters to the North Platte River and several other tributaries. North Park still has some of the area’s most pristine waters and open space. Fishing in the North Platte and its web of tributaries - Grizzly Creek, the Michigan and Illinois Rivers and others - is known throughout the region for its excellence, making it a popular destination for guided fly fishing trips originating in Fort Collins and elsewhere. North Park is also home to sage grouse, elk, antelope, mule deer, moose, and it is identified by DOW as critical winter range for deer and elk.
North Park sits on the Niobrara Formation, from which petroleum has long been produced. Production has increased since 2007 and more drilling is on the horizon. Sportsmen and anglers’ groups are concerned that oil and gas development will have negative effects on the area’s wildlife habitat and water quality, threatening their sportsmen and tourism economies. Local groups like Trout Unlimited, Colorado Wildlife Federation and Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development are trying to strike a balance by protecting these values while allowing for responsible energy development. There is an ongoing effort urging energy companies and federal land managers to create a comprehensive regional drilling plan and ensure drilling occurs with as little environmental harm as possible.
Our flight took us over the North Park area including Arapahoe and Michigan Creeks, and branches of Grizzly Creek, all of which drain into the North Platte. Here we saw what values are at risk, current oil & gas operations, and how the two interact with each other. We also took a look at a gas well located right on the banks of Michigan Creek that exploded last August. Proximity of these wells to water sources raises major concerns as current drilling plans lack proper protections for clean water. Many communities downstream depend on clean water that originates in the North Platte basin.