RIFLE, Colo. — Standing in a canyon in hilly terrain, Ken Neubecker cast his fly into a cold stream. Minutes later he had a bite. Thrashing at the end of his line was a speckled green fish, a scarce Colorado cutthroat trout.
Mr. Neubecker was fishing on the Roan Plateau, a high stretch of terrain beloved by hunters, anglers and hikers for its clear streams, herds of deer and elk, and rugged beauty.
“There just aren’t many places like this in the West,” Mr. Neubecker said. “It’s a real gem.”
But as the number of truly wild places in the United States dwindles, people like Mr. Neubecker, who is president of the Colorado chapter of a conservation group called Trout Unlimited, are arguing that the nation ought to recalibrate its view of what is worth saving.
This desire to preserve more land is running up against a powerful economic incentive to develop new supplies of oil and gas. In particular, the nation is undergoing a boom in natural gas drilling. New production techniques have expanded the country’s potential reserves of gas by 40 percent in the last few years.