A delegation of North Fork Valley business owners and residents travelled to Washington, D.C. this week to meet with senior staff at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Colorado Senators to urge the withdrawal of all 22 parcels from the Aug. 9 oil and gas lease sale.
The delegation, organized and supported by Citizens for a Healthy Community (CHC), includes Brent Helleckson, owner of Stone Cottage Cellars in Paonia; rancher Landon Deane, who owns the T Lazy 7 Ranch in Aspen and the Eagle Butte Ranch near Hotchkiss; Marley Hodgson, owner of the Smith Fork Ranch in Crawford; and Paonia resident and environmental policy expert Pete Kolbenschlag.
The CHC delegation is meeting with Neil Kornze, acting deputy director of programs and policy at BLM. In addition, Colorado state director Helen Hankins, assistant director for minerals and realty management Mike Nedd, and deputy director for minerals and realty management Tim Spisak were invited to the meeting.
The delegation is also meeting with Sen. Bennet, Sen. Udall, and Rep. Tipton's legislative director Adam Eckman.
"Our concern about this lease sale is so great that we travelled to Washington to tell the BLM and our Senators directly, face to face, that farming, wineries, and tourism, and oil and gas drilling, simply don't mix," said Stone Cottage Cellars' Helleckson. "This lease sale threatens the North Fork economy, my business, and my family."
Stone Cottage Cellars is a member of the West Elks Winery Association, whose 12 wineries represents $1.5 to $2 million in direct sales each year, with an estimated, additional $5 to $10 million through indirect sales from recommendations for restaurants and lodging.
Ranch owners Landon Deane and Marley Hodgson said they are worried about the devastating impacts oil and gas development would have on their businesses.
"At our ranch we raise natural grass-fed beef and specialty hays, which are sold to buyers across the country who are interested in quality products that are not tainted with chemicals," said Deane of the Eagle Butte Ranch. "Leasing this land threatens our domestic and irrigation water supplies, and could cause irreversible damage to our reputation and the quality of our products."
Marley Hodgson, of the Smith Fork Ranch in Crawford, moved to the valley 12 years ago to turn a ghost ranch into a premier guest ranch that now adds about $1 million to the economy each year. Hodgson said he is deeply concerned about the impact of oil and gas leasing on tourism.
In light of public opposition and the threats posed to water, air, recreation, agriculture and other resources, CHC has called for the BLM to withdrawal all 22 parcels from the August lease sale. In addition, CHC has called on the agency to analyze all potential and cumulative impacts from oil and gas development prior to the selling the rights to develop oil and gas in these parcels.
"We supported sending these business owners and residents to Washington to make sure top BLM officials hear the concerns of the citizens of the North Fork Valley," said Daniel Feldman, chairman of the board of Directors of CHC. "The BLM in Washington and our Senators need to know that the local BLM office is steam rolling this lease sale through despite overwhelming public concern and opposition."
Citizens for a Healthy Community is a grass-roots organization formed in 2010 for the purpose of protecting people and their environment from irresponsible oil and gas development in the Delta County, Colorado region. CHC currently has more than 900 members and supporters.blog comments powered by Disqus