Appeals from impacted communities and governor lose out to oil and gas lobby
Today the Interior Department released documents showing it is proceeding with an oil and gas lease sale on five parcels of federal land in the North Fork Valley, Colorado. Despite appeals from the governor and local communities to defer the leasing in this area, sales are now slated for this December. Reaction from stakeholders was swift.
The Wilderness Society issued the following statement from Jim Ramey, Colorado state director:
“Despite appeals from the governor and impacted communities, the Interior Department is recklessly pushing ahead with controversial oil and gas leasing near North Fork. Coloradans have no desire to see drilling near the North Fork, where industrial extraction could disrupt the vibrant agricultural and tourism economy, abundant wildlife and world class recreational opportunities. The only voice that seems to matter to Interior is the voice of the fossil fuel lobby.”
Alex Johnson, executive director of the Western Slope Conservation Center said:
"There is no good reason why the BLM should be issuing leases in the North Fork Valley months before the release of the Uncompahgre Resource Management Plan. Our communities have spent years engaging in BLM's land management processes, and this lease sale undermines local trust in the intentions of our federal agencies. Beyond these serious concerns with process, it's also just a really bad idea to issue leases immediately surrounding the valley's largest reservoir, on unstable slopes, and in close proximity to water bodies that we rely on to grow food for people across the state. We are deeply disappointed that the BLM is moving forward with these leases, and the agency should be prepared for strong and vocal local opposition to this irresponsible sale."
Luke Schafer, west slope director of Conservation Colorado, said:
“Once again, we see Secretary Zinke’s short-sighted policy of ‘Energy Dominance’ rearing its ugly head. This policy clearly has little to do with our public lands -- or the public -- and everything to do with giving away public resources to the oil and gas industry for pennies on the dollar. The North Fork Valley and its residents deserve better than that. Our communities deserve the chance to develop diverse and sustainable economies without their efforts jeopardized by short-sighted politicians.”
In December, BLM is set to lease 236,009 acres, which includes protected sage-grouse habitat, the embattled North Fork Valley and big game habitat and migration corridors. Concern over the sale has prompted Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper to issue a letter to the BLM, standing up for the natural resources and communities in the state, and calling into question the now-limited review process for the lease sale impacts. The North Fork Valley is a vibrant hub of family farms, abundant wildlife and world-class recreation opportunities and has been featured as one of fifteen places around the country deemed Too Wild to Drill by The Wilderness Society.