Editor’s note: This story was originally published by Colorado News Connection.
DENVER -- The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has approved a set of new rules conservation groups say will help greatly in efforts to protect wildlife from new energy development.
In 2019, Colorado passed legislation installing paid, professional regulators as commissioners. And John Gale, conservation director for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, said this was the first big test of the new commission. The major changes include requiring new development to be 2,000 feet away from schools or homes and limiting development near waterways and wildlife.
Gale said that will increase stream buffers in Colorado by almost 10 times.
"For the last 65 years, they've been operating with the stated intent of fostering the oil and gas industry in Colorado. What these rules will usher in is a much-needed balance, in consideration for things like fish and wildlife," Gale said.
He said energy development isn't off the table in Colorado, but some key resources are too important to risk by allowing drilling or other development nearby. He said it's also crucial to protect migration corridors that big-game animals rely on to travel between their winter and summer ranges.
Gale said Colorado is home to incredible natural resources and beautiful landscapes that draw people to the state for recreation and quality of life - but some of the same resources also attract energy developers. And he noted Colorado's waterways feed lower-basin states, like Arizona, as well.
"We want to make sure that we're doing our job upstream to ensure that people downstream of us are benefiting from the actions that we take up here, too," he said.
Gale said these rule changes have been a long time coming. He hopes future stewards of Colorado's land and natural resources will also take into account the balance between industry, recreation and conservation.
Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.