More Than 900,000 Americans Urge President Obama to Protect National Forests and National Parks from Fracking

Media Contacts
Margaret McCall

Environment Colorado

Washington, D.C. — Today, Environment Colorado joined almost a million Americans in calling on President Obama to protect our national forests and national parks from fracking. As the comment period on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) proposed rule for fracking on public lands draws to a close this Friday, the future of many treasured places in Colorado hangs in the balance.

“Colorado has some of the best national parks and national forests in the country,” said Kim Stevens, campaign director for Environment Colorado. “Now is the time for President Obama to step in and keep fracking out of our national forests and away from our national parks.”

Over the past two months, Environment Colorado has had face-to-face conversations with over 14,000 Coloradans about the issue. Colorado in particular has felt the environmental impacts of fracking, from contaminated drinking water sources to treasured landscapes turned into industrial zones. And now, the oil and gas industry has designs on key areas of Colorado’s natural heritage, including sources of drinking water for millions of people:

  • White River National Forest –White River is the most visited national forest in the nation, drawing 9.2 million visitors each year. Its 4,000 pristine streams also provide drinking water to nearby communities, and feed the Colorado River. Under the BLM’s most recent plan, more than 200,000 acres of this national forest would be open to fracking.
  • Mesa Verde National Park – This park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, containing some of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the United States. The spectacular natural resources of the park include 8,500 acres of designated wilderness, and its Class I air shed, the highest standards set by Congress under the Clean Air Act. Yet the BLM continues to entertain industry proposals to frack on the outskirts of this treasured place.

Other Colorado places vulnerable to fracking include Roan Plateau, South Park, and Dinosaur National Monument. The Obama administration’s advisory panel on fracking recommended the “[p]reservation of unique and/or sensitive areas as off limits to drilling.” Yet the proposed BLM rule has no provisions to restrict fracking from any public lands whatsoever.

The need to permanently protect Colorado’s natural heritage is underscored by the BLM’s recent on-again, off-again oil and gas leasing decisions. The BLM recently reversed course and decided not to offer eight parcels near Mesa Verde—however, these were among twelve parcels originally deferred from a February lease sale that were subsequently put up for development again. “Until fracking is permanently barred near our national parks, Big Oil will keep coming back with plans to drill on the doorstep of Mesa Verde,” Stevens said.

In addition, strong protections are needed on public lands where fracking is already occurring. Yet, the fracking rule proposed is very limited and its provisions are exceedingly weak:

  • Toxic chemicals – Instead of barring the use of toxic chemicals, the BLM’s rule merely proposes disclosure of such chemicals, in a scheme even weaker than originally proposed last year.
  • Well construction – The proposed rule falls short of even the American Petroleum Institute’s own standards for fracked wells.
  • Wastewater – The rule has drillers submit management plans, but fails to ban waste pits.

Fracking generates millions of gallons of toxic wastewater laced with benzene, caustic salts and even radioactive material. According to state data, spills and leaks from oil and gas operations have contaminated groundwater in Colorado more than 300 times in the past five years.

Given these environmental impacts, we must keep fracking away from our national parks and forests. Says Cole Glenn of the San Juan Angler, a local fly shop and outfitter in Durango, near Mesa Verde: “[We must] make sure that Colorado’s rivers and national forests stay wild. We take pride in our landscapes and natural beauty. Fracking would destroy the environment and the livelihood of those who care most about it.”