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BP, Colorado Strike Wildlife Protection Deal

Colorado's Division of Wildlife said Thursday it had reached agreement with BP America Production Co. on wildlife conservation steps to mitigate the impact of natural gas drilling in the southwestern portion of the state.

The focus of the agreement is to limit future wildlife loss, a spokesperson for the state agency said. It is a mitigation plan to offset direct habitat loss from BP's gas development by "taking into account both the quantity and functional value of habitats at drilling locations," the spokesperson said.

Under the plan, additional habitat loss will be limited in key areas, along with preserving habitat conditions as necessary to support existing wildlife populations.

State officials said the agreement is the result of an 18-month collaboration that included the Nature Conservancy, in addition to BP and the state agency. Mitigation will occur in La Plata and Archuleta counties. Representatives of both the energy company and the environmental organization praised the deal.

The plan allows for a streamlined permitting process under a Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rule (1202-d) that permits energy companies to enter wildlife mitigation plans with the state to address multiple facilities simultaneously rather than having to address each facility individually.

Wildlife Division Director Tom Remington said the agreement demonstrates that it is possible to "develop natural resources and preserve Colorado's wildlife." Remington called the agreement "an ideal model" for planning resource development and large-scale landscape conservation.

BP's San Juan area operations manager, Jerry Austin, said the agreement will make it possible to have more long-term development planning and wildlife preservation.

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