The state of Colorado has reached agreements with nine oil-and-gas companies to conduct operations in a way that will protect wildlife on about 355,000 acres of land on the Western Slope. The plans are voluntary, reports the Denver Business Journal; however, an approved state plan could hasten the process for companies seeking drilling permits, says David Neslin, executive director of the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission. Industry officials have decried the state's regulations on oil-and-gas drilling, but Colorado is the region's leader in issuing permits (including 819 new wells this year) and is on pace to issue 6,500 permits by the end of the year, according to The Denver Post. Governor Bill Ritter calls the pacts a "balanced approach" meant to keep the economy moving while allowing the state and companies to "maximize our vast energy resources and ensure sustainable communities for years to come" (via the Grand Junction Sentinel). Lands near Silt and De Beque, as well as in Rio Blanco County, are all included in the pacts with companies such as Delta Petroleum and Gunnison Energy Corp.