The directors of two local grassroots organizations, Sarah Sauter with Western Slope Conservation Center (WSCC) and Jim Ramey with Citizens For A Healthy Community (CHC) spoke at the Paonia Town Council meeting on April 9. They were seeking the town's support for the North Fork Alternative Plan, which is a proposal for the revised Resource Management Plan (RMP) being drafted now by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
"This is a project that was developed by a group of stakeholders and co-chaired by [Sauter and Ramey]," Ramey said. The stakeholders include Daniel Feldman, John Moore, Pete Kolbenschlag, Bob Lario, Nancy Wood, Mark Waltermire, Tom Stevens and Brent Helleckson. Besides WSCC and CHC board members, those stakeholders represent real estate brokers, ranchers, wineries and organic growers. The group has been working over the past year on the plan.
The North Fork Alternative Plan will be submitted to the BLM as part of the public comment period for the draft RMP.
A petition in support of the North Fork Alternative Plan has over 600 signatures at this time.
"This is a resource-based plan. It's looking at all the things we value most in the community, and trying to figure out what we would like BLM to do to help protect those resources," Sauter told the council.
The North Fork Alternative Plan lists management zones which the stakeholders hope will be incorporated into and strengthen the BLM management plan. It provides for more protection of certain management zones than what is believed will be listed in the BLM's preferred alternative plan for the draft RMP.
"We think this strikes a good balance," Sauter said.
The six management zones are designed to protect the rural agricultural community, rivers, landscape and wildlife. The zones are mining and agriculture; towns, schools and communities; clean and dependable water supplies; riparian areas and river corridors; wildlife and landscape. In addition, the plan proposes a special recreational management area on Jumbo Mountain in Paonia.
"We also want to protect some of our key views," Sauter said. That will help protect tourism in the North Fork Valley.
"This is not a leasing plan. This is a management plan that will protect our resources. That's a key distinction," Sauter said.
Steve Gulick, president of Creek Vista Homeowners Association in Paonia, spoke on behalf of the board which strongly supports the North Fork Alternative Plan. "There are laws to protect endangered species, but none to protect small endangered communities such as ours from undue oil and gas development. The personnel of BLM who make decisions about oil and gas leasing and development are not from Paonia. They don't care for our concerns and appear to have a markedly different vision for the North Fork Valley. Therefore, it is incumbent on us — the citizens and town councils of the valley — to make it clear to the BLM what our vision is. The North Fork Alternative does exactly that," Gulick read from his prepared statement.
Barbara Peterson, town clerk, stated that the methodology of the North Fork Alternative Plan is the same as used by the BLM. She believes that because of that, the Alternative Plan may be seriously considered.
Sauter gave a draft letter of support for the plan to the Paonia Town Council. There are plans to go to the town councils in Crawford and Hotchkiss and the county commissioners in Gunnison County and Delta County.
"We hope to prove to BLM that most of the community is behind [the Alternative Plan]," Sauter said.
The town council approved signing the letter of support.blog comments powered by Disqus