Colorado considers oil drilling at state park

Associated Press Published: January 9, 2012

DENVER (AP) — The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission is preparing for potential oil drilling at a state park and state wildlife area.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife owns mineral rights on 439 acres of St. Vrain Park, which sits on the highly productive Wattenberg oil field, in Longmont.

At its monthly meeting Thursday, the 14-member commission could authorize Colorado Parks and Wildlife Director Rick Cables to negotiate a surface rights agreement to allow for energy development from a 10-acre well pad in a rural section of the park, with stipulations to protect the environment and visitors' experience. Any drilling likely wouldn't occur until 2013.

St. Vrain has nesting sites for herons and great egrets. It also provides winter habitat for bald eagles and summer habitat for American white pelicans.

Oil and gas companies already have drilled land around the park. If Parks and Wildlife opted not to develop mineral rights from within the park, companies could still remove them from outside its boundaries, but royalties paid to the state would be far less, parks officials have said.

Some conservationists have said state parks shouldn't be drilled. The environmental policy firm Western Resource Advocates has said public safety and the environment should come first.