The nearly 200,000-acre Pawnee National Grassland, east of Fort Collins in Colorado, is a mixed-grass prairie that supports an incredible diversity of life. Prairie dogs, swift fox, burrowing owls, mountain plover, and a plethora of bird species call the Pawnee home. Pawnee is an internationally known birding area that attracts thousands of visitors each year. The Colorado state bird, the lark bunting, is one of those species that many bird enthusiasts come to the grassland to spot.
The grassland overlays part of the gas rich Niobrara Formation. Parts of the grassland are already open for drilling and the Forest Service is considering leasing more of the Pawnee. The region is becoming increasingly more endangered due to the high demand for oil and gas. Vast quantities of oil and gas are located in the Niobrara oil shale formation over one mile beneath the surface. As the Forest Service updates its management plan for the area, they plan to to allow continued oil and gas leasing under the 193,000-acre grassland, but with a "no surface occupancy" which would require energy companies to drill for minerals horizontally from surrounding nonfederal lands, leaving the federal grassland undistrubed. This move helps protect the grassland, although it is possible that it will be impacted from increased development on adjacent private and state lands.
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