Drilling, one mile outside Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes

Since President Donald Trump was sworn into office last year, the administration has used its “energy dominance” agenda to require states to conduct quarterly sales on public lands across the West. As a result, the Bureau of Land Management is on track to double the acreage open for leasing in 2018, compared to 2017, in six Western states.

This September, 11 parcels totaling 18,358 acres located less than a mile from Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in south-central Colorado will be up for an online auction, adding to the Interior Department’s growing quota.

The park is famous for its iconic sand dunes and has a reputation for being one of the quietest national parks in the country, according to a soundscape study conducted in 2008. Environmental groups worry that oil and gas drilling would significantly impact that silence, along with local wildlife and nearby wilderness. The growing number of visitors to the area will also be affected.

Some of the parcels are also near the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area and overlap the migratory corridors of elk herds and bighorn sheep, said Rebecca Fischer, a spokeswoman for WildEarth Guardians. Because the park is protected, it’s become an attractive place for wildlife to congregate, both inside and outside its boundaries.

“The parcels are in an area where there hasn’t been any kind of oil and gas production before,” said Kimberly Pope, a Sierra Club spokeswoman. “It is a brand-new area with unknown resource availability that just doesn’t seem like a great choice for the BLM to be leasing.”

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