ASPEN — The Trump administration is pushing to open more public land in Colorado for fossil fuel development, preparing to sell off access to minerals under 45,000 acres near a state park and bird habitat along the upper Colorado River.

But the intensifying efforts by the federal Bureau of Land Management face resistance.

Conservation groups are fighting in federal court to block this leasing in already-drilled areas around De Beque, accusing the feds of skipping required environmental reviews.

And in southern Colorado this week, Huerfano County commissioners began drafting a formal request to the BLM to delay the proposed leasing of 18,000 acres for oil and gas drilling, including parcels that touch the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area and come as close as a mile to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Those officials previously said they’d stay out of that battle.

“All this development is for fossil fuels, which are creating a warmer climate. The BLM has never analyzed and disclosed that connection adequately,” said Peter Hart, staff attorney of Wilderness Workshop, an architect of the legal challenge in federal court. “It requires a huge amount of water. It takes land that is important wildlife habitat, land that provides habitat for threatened and endangered species, rare plants. It takes water out of rivers that fish and people depend on.”

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