Last Wednesday, Jan. 16, a delegation from the North Fork Valley met with the staff for Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, Rep. Scott Tipton and the Bureau of Land Management in Washington, D.C. Their mission was to provide justification for removing the valley's nominated parcels from the Feb. 14 oil and gas lease sale.
The group met face-to-face with Mike Pool, BLM director, and Neil Kornze, BLM deputy director, imploring the national BLM office to remove all 20 parcels and 20,555 acres in the North Fork Valley from the sale.
Pete Kolbenschlag, a strategic consultant and Paonia resident, in a phone interview on Monday said, "I think it is always valuable for us to come back from local places to talk to people in D.C. because I don't think they always get that perspective particularly in the agencies. Congress hears a lot from constituents back in Colorado, but I'm not sure that people in the administration and BLM do. They tend to have information filtered up the food chain through other BLM staff."
He continued, "They gave us a lot of time. I had the impression they listened to our concerns and that they want to get it right. They want to make sure Colorado BLM is listening to real concerns on the ground."
Kolbenschlag also said that Rep. Scott Tipton's staff asked many good questions. The staff for Sen. Udall and Sen. Bennet were also "supportive of what we are trying to do."
Others who attended the meetings gave comments through a press release from Citizens For A Healthy Community.
"Our small winery is right next to a parcel, which is only 39-feet away from our water well," said Ty Gillespie, owner of Azura Cellars and Gallery in Paonia. "Last year we had visitors from every state in the union. This is really about protecting the bucolic nature of our valley, which is so fundamental to our business."
Director Pool was told how oil and gas development would impact the sustainable economy that's developed in the North Fork.
"Based on the wineries and the organic farming, we have a very sustainable economy here that's not compatible with oil and gas development," said Marley Hodgson of the Smith Fork guest ranch in Crawford.
"We are here on the behalf of thousands of residents who are opposed to leasing these lands," said Landon Deane of the Eagle Butte cattle ranch in Paonia and the T-Lazy-7 Ranch in Aspen. "There are some places that warrant special protection and the North Fork is one of those places."
National food and wine critic, and part-time Crawford resident, Eugenia Bone added that "the sustainable agriculture that's developed in the North Fork over recent years is threatened at its core by the prospects of industrial scale oil and gas drilling."
"I have been a consistent advocate for the emerging organic food and wine scene in the North Fork," said Bone. "Here we have a case where one industry, oil and gas, would completely decimate the existing, sustainable economy that is still growing. Moving forward with this lease sale based on outdated science and analysis is just a bad idea."
Hodgson added, "Time and again we have tried to get the BLM Colorado office to slow down and wait until there's an updated [Resource Management Plan] in place for the area. We travelled all the way to Washington because it's just that important to us. We really appreciate that BLM Director Pool and Deputy Director Kornze took the time to meet with us and listen to our concerns."blog comments powered by Disqus