Sometimes called the Serengeti of Colorado, North Park is a high 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 home to pronghorns, mule deer, moose, bears, mountain lions, greater sage-grouse, elk, badgers, river otters, more than 200 species of birds and the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge.
North Park sits on the Niobrara Formation, where oil and natural gas are being produced and have been since 2007. Sportsmen and anglers’ groups are concerned that oil and gas development has negative effects on the area’s wildlife habitat and water quality, threatening their sportsmen and tourism economy.
The EPA was called in to assess an oil spill in 2012 from Lone Pine gas facilities, which extended along the shorelines of Spring Gulch Creek for 1.25 miles. In addition to the spill, Lone Pine has landowners concerned about water quality because the company has a discharge permit from the state, allowing them to release up to 420,000 gallons of treated drilling wastewater per day directly into creek waters. In 2009 the state found that the drilling wastewater did not meet state water quality standards and ordered Lone Pine to stop polluting the creek. But the wastewater facility has been target of criticism for its inability to consistently comply with water quality standards.
Citizens urged the BLM to use a Master Leasing Plan as a way to complete a landscape-scale analysis to assess potential, cumulative impacts before leases are issued. But the BLM feels that the area is already too developed to use this tool. As the BLM now updates their resource management plan, groups of sportsmen and conservationists are urging the BLM to consider wildlife impacts. As one of the West’s last lonely landscapes that still retain much of their native habitat and hunting and fishing traditions, they are asking that the needs of wildlife and wildlife habitat are factored in before energy development expands, rather than as an afterthought.
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