Oil and gas industry is coming for Colorado's sand dunes

Alana Miller

(CNN) Southern Colorado is home to some of the most stunning landscapes in the country. Where the steep, dark-green slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains hit the valley floor, they are met by towering sand dunes that sprawl across more than 30 square miles. The highest dunes rise more than 700 feet into the air -- about the height of the tallest skyscraper in many American cities. This landscape has been crafted over tens of thousands of years, as winds blowing over the mountains dropped grains of sand, which slowly morphed into the dunes we see today.

Over Memorial Day weekend, I went camping in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and hiking in Great Sand Dunes National Park. I've traveled a lot and spent a lot of time in different wilderness areas, but I have to say -- this was unlike anything I had ever seen before.

First recognized and protected by President Herbert Hoover in 1932, the Great Sand Dunes contain the largest dunes in North America. Every year, around 320,000 visitors , many of them children and families, enjoy the park by sandboarding down the dunes, playing in the adjacent creek, hiking or looking for wildlife. According to the park's website , the dunes are home to six species of insects that can be found nowhere else on earth, including the pretty, and appropriately named, Great Sand Dunes Tiger Beetle.

But the area around the Great Sand Dunes -- like many other special places across America -- is now at risk.

The Trump administration has proposed selling mineral rights on properties adjacent to this magnificent place, opening up the area for oil and gas drilling. According to the Denver Post , drilling could be done on land that touches the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness area and within one mile of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.


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