Resource Jun 9, 2016

Protecting Sensitive Resources near Mesa Verde National Park

The serene, semi-arid landscape of the Four Corners region of southwestern Colorado once housed an early Native American civilization of ancestral Puebloan people. These ancient inhabitants left behind remnants of their culture that tell the story of a complex society that existed here for hundreds of years.

Today, many of these structures and artifacts are preserved within the boundaries of Mesa Verde National Park – designated a UNESCO World Heritage site – as well as several national monuments visible from the park, including Yucca House and Canyons of the Ancients.

Because of its rural location and arid conditions, this area has not seen extensive industrial development or population growth. As a result, Mesa Verde’s 500,000-plus annual visitors and locals alike are able to experience many of the qualities that Ancestral Puebloan people did – starry night skies, a diverse array of plant and animal species, sweeping vistas and natural quiet. However, emerging technologies have increased the prevalence of oil and gas exploration and drilling in recent years, putting the defining natural and cultural features of this part of the world at significant risk.

The Bureau of Land Management is considering applying an innovative planning tool on the lands surrounding Mesa Verde National Park. This approach, called a Master Leasing Plan, would have the dual benefits of protecting sensitive natural and cultural resources, while allowing for oil and gas development, where appropriate.

NPCA and our partners at FracTracker invite you to explore the resulting interactive map documenting some of the wildlife habitat, scenic views, recreational opportunities and cultural sites that deserve protection under the Master Leasing Plan. The images reflected here were captured in May 2016 by dozens of volunteers who care about preserving the qualities that make southwestern Colorado unique.

Mesa Verde isn’t the only national park that would benefit from an MLP. Read more about where MLPs have worked and where they should be started in NPCA’s 2016 edition of “A Responsible Process: Using Master Leasing Plans to Balance Sensible Energy Development and the Protection of National Parks.”