Plans to Open North Park for Drilling Fought

Kirk Siegler

Most springs, when the snow melt is furious, Bill Dvorak grabs his raft and tackle and heads to a wild and remote stretch of the North Platte River northeast of Steamboat Springs. "It's one of those rivers that I really love," Dvorak says. "I've always described it as close as you can get to an Idaho river in Colorado."

He leads outfitting trips that start at 9,000 feet, winding through the Northgate Canyon Wilderness Area, eventually spilling out into a sparsely developed basin known colloquially as North Park.

"It's kind of like the Serengeti of Colorado," Dvorak says. "There's so many animals up in that North Park area, and it definitely deserves some sort of consideration before you would go in there and destroy some of that habitat."

Dvorak is an organizer with the National Wildlife Federation, which along with Colorado Trout Unlimited and other groups have filed formal protests against Thursday's lease auction. The auction includes about 11,000 acres in the North Park area. The groups worry roads and well pads necessary for oil and gas drilling will fragment habitat for wildlife such as the sage grouse, antelope and mule deer.