North Fork oil, gas leasing protested
Numerous parties have filed protests against the Bureau of Land Management’s plans to offer more than 20,000 acres in the North Fork Valley for oil and gas leasing. Objections also have been lodged against plans to offer parcels near Dinosaur National Monument at the same Feb. 14 lease sale.
The National Park Service has not filed a formal protest, but has asked that the leasing be deferred or withdrawn in the case of the parcels near the monument, said its superintendent, Mary Risser.
“Our concerns would be cumulative impacts on air quality, on groundwater quantity and quality, night skies, soundscapes, migration routes of animals … and potential impacts on the endangered fish species in the rivers,” Risser said.
The deadline for filing protests for the lease sale was 5 p.m. Monday.
Paonia’s Town Council was among the protesters of the North Fork Valley leasing, and the Gunnison County commissioners sent a letter of objection, said Paonia activist Pete Kolbenschlag. He said by email that one community protest garnered more than 600 signatures. He said other protesters include the Valley Organic Growers Association, Slow Food Western Slope, the West Elk Winery Association, several local irrigators and more than a dozen local real estate agents.
Many of the protests center on the BLM’s decision to offer leases based on a current Uncompahgre Field Office resource management plan dating back to the 1980s.
“The agency has failed to consider how oil and gas development, including modern drilling techniques such as fracking, would impact people living in the North Fork Valley,” Jim Ramey, director of Citizens for a Healthy Community, said in a press release.
BLM spokesman Steven Hall said the agency took changing conditions into account in its environmental assessment of the leasing.
David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said companies have to go by BLM plans currently in place in making investment decisions, and it could take years before the new plan takes effect.
The Colorado Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited protested not only the North Fork lease parcel offerings but the ones near the monument, which also are being protested by groups such as the Wilderness Society, Friends of the Yampa and the National Parks Conservation Association.
The monument-area parcels involve lands south of the Yampa River — a popular whitewater rafting venue — and upstream of the monument. The parcels also are near the Cross Mountain and Vale of Tears wilderness study areas.
The Denver-based Checks and Balances Project says the BLM also is proposing to offer in May several leases along the monument’s south entrance, including one adjacent to its visitor center.