02.4.13

Local Issues, National Context

A few weeks ago, we wrote a rather long post about The Conservation Center and the quandary they find themselves in: providing input to a much-needed revision of an old Resource Management Plan and fighting the sale of too many oil and gas leases, too close to productive agricultural lands and areas that are part of the National Conservation Lands.

Over the weekend, their situation in the North Fork Valley, near Paonia, Colorado, became a national story. Sunday’s  New York Times painted the scene. “For a glimpse into the complications of President Obama’s “all of the above” energy policy, follow a curling mountain road through the aspens and into central Colorado’s North Fork Valley […]”

“Here, amid dozens of organic farms, orchards and ranches, the federal government is opening up thousands of acres of public land for oil and gas drilling, part of its largest energy lease sale in Colorado since Mr. Obama took office.”

Two hundred residents turned out for a public meeting two weeks ago to hear BLM staffers explain the sale, and Paonia’s Mayor asked why they had used a 30-year-old Resource Management Plan to evaluate whether drilling would mesh with the valley’s lifestyle and growing tourism economy. The Times reported a response, “People would like it if we said, ‘O.K., we’re just going to stop,’ ” Helen M. Hankins, the bureau’s state director, told the crowd. “We really don’t have that luxury.”

With the leadership of The Conservation Center and other groups, residents of the North Fork Valley, who represent a broad and diverse constituency, will continue to press the BLM on this issue. Developing oil and natural gas is a legitimate way to use some public land in the West; it is not a legitimate way to use public lands when the BLM has not, since 1989, comprehensively evaluated, planned nor incorporated public input on how to manage them in a balanced way for the benefit of all. The community’s request to postpone the sale of these leases until impacts to the larger landscape have been evaluated and a new RMP has been written is reasonable and smart.

Tomorrow, we have the opportunity to hear Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt speak about this idea of putting conservation of public lands back on equal ground with oil and gas drilling–in a national context. He will give a speech at the National Press Club and announce a new proposal to help translate the current energy boom into sustainable economic growth and improved stewardship of iconic landscapes for future generations.

You can watch it live here: http://www.visualwebcaster.com/equalground

 

Posted by Charlotte Overby in Blog & Videos, Western Slope Conservation Center