I'd like to thank the Delta County Independent for some excellent reporting that has kept us informed about both the proposed Bear Ranch land exchange as well as gas leasing in our area. The article on March 25, "Former Gunnison Energy senior vice president becomes a whistleblower" is one that everyone should be paying attention to.
We now have strong evidence that Gunnison Energy and SG Interests, the two major players in our area's gas boom, used unethical practices to deprive the American people of a fair return on our natural resources. I join many in our community who have asked the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute any crimes to the full extent of the law.
What we don't know is what the owner's of these companies have discussed since this occurred. The article prompted me to get curious about what relationship, if any, there might be between the current proposal for drilling 146 gas wells in the Bull Mountain Unit (proposed by SG Interests), and the Bear Ranch land exchange (proposed by the owner of Gunnison Energy). It didn't take long to go onto the BLM website and pull up a map that shows the "preferred alternative" that SG Interests is proposing for these gas wells. What I found is most curious!
It turns out that a property known as the Buck Ranch is contained within the Bull Mountain Unit. For those who aren't spending all their time trying to keep track of the giant game of monopoly going on in our backyard, it's worth remembering that the Buck Ranch was purchased a few months ago by Bear Ranch. The reason? Bear Ranch got a lot of flak the first time they tried to get their land swap approved because they tried to remove the best access to the heart of the Ragged Mountains from the public domain while offering nothing in return for locals. But since there was a groundswell of opposition, Bear Ranch went looking for an alternative location where they could give the public access to the Raggeds. The Buck Ranch is the property they settled on, and reportedly spent several million dollars to purchase.
Originally we were told that the Buck Ranch would be deeded to the public, but that was quickly whittled down to remaining private and merely providing trail easements for hikers, mountain bikers and ATV users. Now, the Bull Mountain Unit preferred alternative shows that what the public is being offered are trails that will be flanked by gas wells and pipelines, including all the noisy compressors, air pollution, hazardous materials, and traffic that accompany such operations. What is most telling is that four wells are perched immediately on the west boundary of Buck Ranch, and a pipeline will go right up the steep Spring Creek BLM strip where there is an existing ATV trail.
To our friends in the ATV community, you might take notice that in order to use the promised improvements to Spring Creek, you will be crossing a gas pipeline in a couple of places. And to the Gunnison and Delta County Commissioners, who have been quick to support Bear Ranch, perhaps you will reconsider your positions. I don't think most of your constituents will be pleased when they discover that you have given away the beautiful access provided by County Road 2 for an inferior route that will be heavily impacted by industrial-scale development.
There are many unanswered questions, but little time for the public to learn what is really going on up there. I hope the DCI can continue to provide us with more updates as the facts become clear. But Bear Ranch and SG Interests are not eager to give us more time. The deadline to comment on the Bull Mountain Unit and SG Interests plans to drill 27 wells per year is April 24. Bear Ranch has mounted an expensive publicity campaign including robocalls, color mailings and radio spots as they gear up to seek an act of Congress. I know we would all like to spend more time working outdoors this spring, but it is important to keep writing letters and stay informed about these issues.
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