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Energy by Design in Colorado

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Watch a video Conservancy scientists created that maps the expansion of oil and gas development in the Rocky Mountains since 1900.


Colorado’s northwest corner is a land of windswept plateaus and gnarled juniper where sage grouse journey back and forth across the border to Wyoming.

Underground natural gas reserves here collide with important natural treasures on a patch of wild sagebrush in Colorado and Wyoming known as Vermillion Basin.

Using a computer modeling program, scientists at the Conservancy have embarked on an innovative project that flags optimum points on a map for conservation across this expansive basin.

Mapping a Path for Conservation
In this new conservation frontier, Conservancy scientists are as likely to be dialing in mathematical models as collecting biological specimens from the field.

The Conservancy has been compiling data on biodiversity for years and setting priorities for conserving high-value lands. Now scientists are using computers to catalog key species and habitats.

The mapping not only inventories lands in the area most suitable for conservation, but also identifies wildlife most at risk from drilling.

A multi-year effort between Questar Corporation and the Conservancy, the project gives industry and land managers a critical roadmap for conservation.

In addition, the model is being refined and applied to offset many kinds of development—from housing growth in Arizona to coal mines in Colombia.

Better Science, Better Results
The Conservancy is working with partners to harness 21st century conservation science and planning tools that have more effective conservation outcomes. 


  • Steer development projects away from sensitive, high-value lands and waters, reducing conflicts between development and conservation.
  • Achieve positive outcomes for nature conservation by ensuring development impacts are compensated for appropriately with conservation actions. 

The Conservancy’s approach provides a tool for industry and land managers who are looking to mitigate the damages infrastructure projects have on lands and waters—potentially driving hundreds of millions of dollars to higher value, more cost-effective conservation efforts.

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