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Commissioners are moving in the right direction

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Dear Editor:

My father's ancestors settled and homesteaded in Delta County, mostly in the Tongue Creek area west of Eckert. My family has always farmed in Delta County, and my wife and I own a renewable energy company that installs solar electric systems in the area.

I would like to commend the Delta County Board of Commissioners regarding its July letter to U.S. Senators Bennet and Gardner, and Representative Tipton, supporting legislative withdrawal of federal minerals from oil and gas leasing, and also considerable no surface occupancy designation of other public lands, all in the heart of the North Fork Valley.

This letter follows another, earlier letter in which the commissioners supported the lease exchange proposed by SG Interests. I know the SG lease exchange is a bitter pill for many North Forkers. If I had my druthers, I would have us rely mostly on renewable energy sources immediately, and save the oil and gas resources in our area for future generations to use as they see fit, instead of being drilled and sold now as mere commodities to parlay into as many dollars as possible for a few companies.

But I don't think we could stop the exchange as hard as we might try: there's already 80,000 acres of existing leases in the upper North Fork watershed, and others in the Surface Creek region, along with the pipelines for gas and produced water, compressor stations, etc. These companies aren't going away, and they are playing a lot of high-value public relations cards to get the exchange.

On the bright side of the proposed exchange, don't forget that a large portion of the Thompson Divide area that SG would give up its leases to is also in our watershed, and would be protected in perpetuity.

The opportunity for legislative withdrawal of the public minerals in the heart of the North Fork is too important to pass up. We stand to gain real safeguards to real lands that we live on, work and work on, recreate on and view every day.

We all know how that lease auction of North Fork lands proposed for 2012 really gave us the jitters: money tightened up, nobody wanted to buy land here or build, and the organic farmers legitimately worried about both their crops and their markets. We spent entire months, even years, of our lives fighting it. Well, here is a chance to take it off the table for good, and at a price we might have to pay anyway.

Let's work for what's good, even if it's not perfect: protecting a huge amount of acreage across the North Fork and in the Thompson Divide. After all, the perfect is often the enemy of the good anyway, and the perfect is unattainable. Now, let's make Delta County and the North Fork the best we can.

Brad Burritt
Hotchkiss

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