The BLM is getting ready to release a draft proposal for a new Resource Management Plan for our area that will govern how public lands are used for the next 15 to 25 years. The BLM made a presentation in Denver this February about its preferred alternative in the new Resource Management Plan.
The BLM's preferred alternative isn't satisfactory because it doesn't protect the quality of our resources here in the North Fork Valley.
As concerned residents, and by knowing our valley's worth to the economy of the state, we are doing our own due diligence. From this strategic point of view, stakeholders in our community have drafted an alternate solution to support the BLM's leasing mandate while still ensuring that the BLM honors its other mandate to protect this rich valley from the unregulated grab of the drilling industry.
The North Fork Alternative Plan would protect the existing agriculture economy by keeping drilling and unregulated fracking away from important farmlands, farms, orchards, ranches, and wineries, and therefore protect those vital resources from the immediate risks we face from oil and gas drilling.
Delta County's agricultural economy is hugely important, with $45 million in sales as of the 2007 Agricultural census. Delta County has the highest concentration of organic farms of any county in Colorado (with nearly twice as many as the second highest county), and the West Elks American Viticultural Area has the highest altitude vineyards grown in the entire northern half of the world!
We have already seen the accidents and destruction of resources in our state from unregulated drilling and fracking, with alarming toxic levels of the carcinogen benzene found near the Parachute Creek upstream of the Colorado River. The BLM needs to protect our clean water and our livelihoods here by adopting the North Fork Alternative Plan.
We need community support behind the North Fork Alternative Plan so that the BLM will decide to adopt this clear and thoughtful plan as part of its new management for our area.
We must not have anything less than a full and comprehensive Resource Management Plan that includes the input from those of us who live and work here and love this land. We don't need another re-do of an outdated land use plan that the BLM wrote 24 years ago. That assessment basically said that the potential for oil and gas development here was so minimal that the agency wasn't going to bother to do any detailed analysis. That is no longer true for this area and we need to protect it from drilling!
It is our community's responsibility to take up our voices and be heard in the development of the new Resource Management Plan. We are calling on everyone in our community to please support the North Fork Alternative Plan by signing the petition online at www.northforkaction.com and writing to your town council member and county commissioners and asking them to support the North Fork Alternative Plan. The North Fork Alternative Plan would give us confidence that the BLM has credibility in meeting its multiple-use mandate.
Joyce C. George