BLM to proceed with North Fork oil, gas leasing

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has decided to offer about 20,555 acres for oil and gas leasing in the North Fork Valley, about two-thirds of the amount it previously proposed.

The decision, announced Friday, was met with immediate criticism from citizen activists and praise from an industry representative.

“This was a bad idea last December and it’s still a bad idea today,” Citizens for a Healthy Community director Jim Ramey said in a press release.

“Colorado’s (BLM) leasing program has been on life support for a couple of years, so anything the agency can do to nurse it back to health is something that we’re clearly excited about,” said David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

The BLM is planning to offer the acreage in its Feb. 14 lease sale. It initially planned to offer about 30,000 acres in August of this year but decided in May to defer that action to do more analysis based on public comments.

Nearly 3,000 comments, mostly from individuals, were submitted on the initial proposal. Many have voiced fears about possible impacts to water supplies, agriculture, health and quality of life.

“Nothing about today’s North Fork was ever considered by the BLM in its 25-year-old management plan and it is simply wrong, based upon that plan, to open these lands up for oil and gas,” Ty Gillespie, owner and operator of Azura Cellars and Gallery in Paonia, said in the news release from Ramey’s group.

The acreage to be leased is in the Paonia, Hotchkiss and Crawford areas. It consists of all or parts of 20 of the 22 parcels that initially were proposed.

A finding of no significant impact by Colorado BLM oil and gas official Lonny Bagley concludes that effects on air and water quality “are not expected to be significant with the incorporation of mitigation measures.”

He found that development of lease parcels may have minor, indirect, short-term impacts on resources such as soil, vegetation and wildlife.

“Oil and gas development is a common practice in the area and no significant impacts to health and safety are known,” Bagley also found.


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