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Leslie Weddell
(719) 389-6038 


Colorado College State of the Rockies Report examines consequences of energy boom

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – April 17, 2009 – The desire to reduce dependency on foreign oil has turned the nation’s eye inward to the eight-state Rocky Mountain region – Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming – which, with vast energy sources, pose to gain from the lucrative energy industry. Yet energy development comes with threats to lifestyle, long-term revenue outlets and the environment.

The energy boom echoes in all eight states. The Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming produce more than 35 percent of the nation’s coal. In 2005 in Colorado, oil and gas generated more than double the revenue of recreation and tourism. Conservation organizations such as Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Federation are critiquing the Bureau of Land Management’s handling of the Rockies’ energy boom and making requests to slow down or halt energy developments in sensitive wildlife areas.

The Rockies have a lot to gain, and a lot to lose. The leasing of public lands for energy development has infringed upon prime hunting, fishing and other recreation areas, encroaching upon the tourism and recreation economies in the Rockies region. The unstable population boom has put strains on basic infrastructure. Wildlife habitats are being threatened; between 2000 and 2004, mule deer populations on the Pinedale Anticline in southwestern Wyoming declined by 46 percent, due in part to natural gas development.

These are among the findings in “Impacts of Energy Development on Wildlife,” a report within the recently released 2009 Colorado College State of the Rockies Report Card. “Impacts of Energy Development on Wildlife” was written by student researcher Alex Weiss.

Other key findings of the “Impacts of Energy Development on Wildlife” report:

  • Utah contains three of the nation’s 100 largest oil fields and two of the nation’s 100 largest natural gas fields.
  • The San Juan Basin of Colorado and New Mexico is the single highest producing natural gas field in the country.
  • Approximately 58 percent of the eight-state region is owned by the federal government, nearly half of which is administered by BLM.
  • Wyoming receives 70 percent of its income from energy production and related industries.
  • Leasing of public lands encroach upon tourism and recreation industries, a sustainable source of revenue. In Utah, tourists spent nearly $6 billion in 2006. In 2005, 160,000 Colorado workers were employed in travel and recreation, nearly double that of the oil and gas industry.
  • A detailed case study of the Pinedale Anticline, where the BLM is proposing 4,000 more gas wells, reveals both the lucrative and highly productive aspects of an energy boom, as well as how it alters migration patterns and encroaches upon wild habitats.
  • Sublette County, Wyo., where Pinedale is located, was the fifth-fastest growing country in the nation between 2006 and 2007. This growth, and the influx of a large, temporary workforce brought in to support the gas industry, has strained basic infrastructures such as housing, transportation, sewage and water services.
  • New technologies, such as hydraulic fracturing, allows access to previously unavailable gas resources at depths of more than 15,000 feet.
  • Liquid gathering systems and directional drilling are responses to demands for cleaner, safer and more environmentally friendly technology; in 2008, Questar Corporation, the largest lease holder on the Pinedale Anticline, won an environmental award for their use of LGS.

The sixth annual Colorado College State of the Rockies Report Card is the culmination of months of research and writing by a team of Colorado College undergraduate students. Each year, a new team of student researchers studies different key issues affecting the Rocky Mountain region.  The report tackles complex and pressing regional issues that very often have greater ramifications for the entire nation.

This year’s 130-page report addresses the following issues:

  • Repopulating the Rockies: Highlighting the Megapolitan and Rural Economic Clusters of the Region
  • Wild and Scenic Rivers: The Importance of Federal River Protection in the Rockies
  • Wildlife Range and Condition: The Historic and Current State of Wildlife in the Rockies
  • Impacts of Energy Development on Wildlife: Highlighting the Unique Resources of the Region
  • Wildlife Management: Facilitating safe and sustainable wildlife populations in the Rockies
  • United States Laws and Politics Protecting Wildlife

Additionally, there are three graded “Rockies Snapshot” sections, which provide insightful statistics and analysis of:

  • Historic Preservation: The process, prevalence and state of historic preservation in the Rockies
  • Incarceration and Crime: The region's status and share of internment
  • Federal Representation: The effectiveness of Rockies' senators and representatives

The State of the Rockies “Impact of Energy Development on Wildlife” chapter may be found at:

The entire 2009 State of the Rockies Report Card, including a baseline section looking at key demographics for the region, may be viewed online at:

Copies of the 2009 Report Card may be purchased through the Colorado College Bookstore, (800) 854-3930 for $25.

Along with the Report Card, Colorado College has sponsored a monthly fall/winter speakers series on “The Wild Rockies” and a Rockies Symposium with a unifying theme: “Visions of the Rockies in 50 Years: Will Our Children Thank Us?”

About the State of the Rockies Project
The Colorado College State of the Rockies Project is designed to provide a thoughtful, objective voice in regional issues by offering credible research on problems facing the Rocky Mountain West, and by convening citizens and experts to discuss the future of the region. Each year the project provides opportunities for collaborative student-faculty research partnerships, an annual State of the Rockies Report Card, and a companion State of the Rockies Symposium. 

About Colorado College
Colorado College is a nationally prominent, four-year liberal arts college that was founded in Colorado Springs in 1874. The college operates on the innovative Block Plan, in which its 1,985 undergraduate students study one course at a time in intensive 3½-week blocks. The college also offers a master of arts in teaching degree. For more information, visit <>.