What Role Does CPW Have in Energy Development and Land Use in Colorado?
CPW Regional Energy Liaisons and Land Use staff are a diverse group of attorneys, wildlife biologists, wildlife managers, ecologists, and landscape ecology & planning professionals located throughout the State, working to protect, enhance, and maintain Colorado’s wildlife and habitats. The regional energy liaisons and land use staff work with energy companies, developers, and federal, state, and local government regulatory agencies to identify actions to avoid, minimize, and mitigate development impacts to Colorado’s wildlife and habitats. CPW is a recommending agency in regards to energy development and land use and has no regulatory authority over these processes. Working together with industry and other stakeholders provides the best opportunity to protect, enhance and preserve Colorado's wildlife resources.
What Are Some Examples of Impacts to Wildlife?
Habitats can become fragmented and/or converted to less desirable habitats
Habitat can be lost entirely due to surface use or exclusion of wildlife due to infrastructure or fencing.
Wildlife can be impacted by increased exposure to risk from collisions with infrastructure and risk of entrapment or exposure to toxic chemicals in trenches, open pits, and storage ponds.
Industrial spills that impact surface and groundwater do occasionally occur and can pollute these waters with toxic chemicals, which can directly affect wildlife and indirectly affect adjacent vegetation and habitats.
Wildlife may exhibit behavioral avoidance or behavioral changes due to the increased road density, vehicular traffic, human activity, noise, and light associated with energy and land development.
How Does CPW Work to Protect Colorado’s Wildlife Resources?
Members of the energy and land use group work with other CPW sections (research, terrestrial, aquatics, wildlife managers, and parks) to identify trends and needs for current and future wildlife management. The group serves as energy, recreation, and land use subject matter experts and serve on working groups, committees, and other partner groups (federal, state, local and non-governmental organizations) to advocate for and advance wildlife and habitat protections in energy, recreation, and land use development settings.
Avoid > Minimize > Mitigate: When projects are proposed that may negatively impact wildlife, CPW prefers solutions that prioritize avoidance of impacts to wildlife through early consultation and careful project planning. This is the most effective way to address adverse impacts on wildlife. When impacts cannot be avoided, CPW recommends minimization techniques to lessen the extent and severity of those impacts on wildlife and habitat. Those may include timing limitations on disturbance to avoid critical periods like reproduction times or wintering needs, and operational procedures that minimize exposure of wildlife to disturbance and risk. If impacts are still anticipated after avoidance and minimization techniques have been considered, mitigation is recommended. Mitigation can include reclamation of a site when operations are complete, habitat enhancement, re-establishment of populations impacted by development, or offsite mitigation to compensate for impacted habitat.
The energy and land use group works to:
Review and synthesize new and existing research and scientific publications related to wildlife and their habitats.
Produce distilled species-specific information/knowledge and project-specific recommendations for avoiding, minimizing and mitigating impacts to wildlife.
Collaborate on research efforts that are designed to further knowledge about energy development or land use impacts and effectiveness of offsets and development of best management practices.
Ensure open and positive communication exchange among stakeholders.
Serve as a statewide lead for development of energy and land use wildlife mitigation policies and best management practices for energy, recreation and land use matters.
What Are Some Examples of Industries We Are Working With?
Oil & Gas Development- The Colorado State House passed House Bill 1298 in 2007, which requires operators to consult with CPW when new pad locations are located within areas marked as Restricted Surface Occupancy (RSO) or Sensitive Wildlife Habitats (SWH). As a result, an important collaborative communication channel was established to allow CPW to work closely with developers and the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission to ensure we develop responsible solutions for protecting wildlife while allowing for fluid mineral development. Senate Bill 181 was signed into law in April of 2019 resulting in increased focus by the commission on issues of health, safety, and environmental concerns in relation to oil and gas development and enabling local governments to have increased oversight of oil and gas activities. CPW will continue to work with the commission and local governments as the new law is implemented.
Mines & Materials Extraction - Coal mines, sand/gravel quarries and gold mines are permitted through the State of Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining, and Safety. CPW works with project managers at DRMS and operators to assess impacts to wildlife, review mining operations and reclamation plans, and make project-specific recommendations for minimization and mitigation techniques.
Renewable Energy - Most renewable energy projects are permitted through the Colorado Public Utilities Commission and at the local level through the county 1041 process. Project developers and county planners working on wind farms, solar facilities, geothermal energy, and biofuel production projects consult with CPW during project development and operations and CPW provides project-specific recommendations on wildlife impacts.
Federal Land Planning