A natural gas drilling site sits against the mountains near the small northwest Colorado community of Meeker in this photograph taken on Friday, Oct. 26, 2007. A new report predicts that northwest Colorado's population could double to about 417,000 over the next 30 years because of the energy boom and the number of gas wells could soar to more than 50,000. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Denver (AP) — A federal judge has indefinitely blocked oil and gas drilling on a wildlife refuge that sits next to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in south-central Colorado.
U.S. District Court Judge Walker Miller on Thursday granted a preliminary injunction, ruling that environmental groups presented adequate evidence that drilling would cause irreparable injury to Colorado's Baca National Wildlife Refuge.
Miller's decision blocks drilling while an environmental lawsuit moves through court.
Toronto-based Lexam Energy Exploration had acquired the mineral rights in 1997 before the former Baca Ranch was bought by the federal government for a wildlife refuge.
The refuge, about 200 miles southwest of Denver, is home to several colonies of Gunnison's prairie dogs, a candidate species for the endangered list. It's also used by migratory birds, burrowing owls, songbirds and elk.
(COPYRIGHT 2009 BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)