Coloradoans Favor Protecting Roadless Areas from Drilling

Contact: Elyssa Rosen: 775.224.7497

Denver, Colorado - 10/07/2008 - As a federal advisory committee is set to review the proposed Colorado roadless rule this week, a poll released today finds that Coloradoans are strongly in favor of protecting undeveloped national forests from oil and gas production, with more than two-thirds believing that thousands of acres of unused energy leases provide a compelling reason not to open Colorado's backcountry to new drilling.

In a survey of 700 Colorado voters conducted August 18 to 24 by RBI Strategy & Research for the Pew Environment Group, 70 percent of respondents said that the oil and gas industry's unused leases justify the protection of roadless areas in national forests from new energy development. In addition, 56 percent felt drilling in these places would have little or no effect on gas prices.

According to the survey, "when given the option between a priority of protecting Colorado's pristine national forests and a priority of developing energy supplies, almost two-thirds of respondents preferred national forest protections."

On Thursday, October 9, in Salt Lake City, the Roadless Area Conservation National Advisory Committee will review a Bush administration proposal, released in late July, that would open Colorado's 4.4 million acres of national forests protected by the Roadless Area Conservation Rule to new drilling, logging and roads. A report released this summer by the Pew Environment Group found that a loophole in the rule would allow approximately 100 new oil and gas leases to be developed even though they would provide less than a day's worth of crude oil for the country.

"The results indicate that the majority of Coloradoans are skeptical about a new push to open up some of their best backcountry to new drilling," said Jane Danowitz, U.S. public lands program director at Pew Environment Group. "They want a time out until they can fully assess what increased drilling could mean to their way of life."

The survey found that Coloradoans are troubled by the consequences of rapidly increasing the amount of oil and gas drilling. Roughly 70 percent of respondents are concerned about the impact of energy development on water quality, human health and wildlife.

"It's clear that the majority of Colorado voters believe that oil and gas companies should use the leases they already have before getting a hold of new ones located in pristine areas," said Rick Ridder, RBI Strategy & Research president.

Colorado's outdoor industry, local stakeholders and more than 70 national organizations have called on the Bush administration to suspend its rulemaking and on Colorado Governor Bill Ritter to request a delay.

View the Roadless Area Conservation National Advisory Committee meeting agenda (pdf).

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