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 map State Looks At Potential Drilling At St. Vrain State Park

(credit: CBS)

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.

Commissioners also will be asked Thursday to approve a surface use agreement for DeJour Energy Inc. to develop three well pads on the Garfield Creek State Wildlife Area. About 11.5 acres of the state wildlife area would be disturbed.

The state doesn’t own the mineral rights in question there. Instead, DeJour leased them from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Parks officials said the surface use agreement with DeJour addresses mineral leases, soils, geology, biological inventory, water quality and sampling, transportation, wetlands and riparian areas, vegetation, weeds, drilling schedules, spill prevention, interim reclamation and emergency response. It includes $207,660 that DeJour would pay to compensate for disturbing the surface, plus $40,000 for projects to improve wildlife habitat at the wildlife area.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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