"Keep the North Fork a great place to live," a letter printed in the DCI Feb. 29, was right on. In it the realtors spoke of the marvelous assets the North Fork has developed over the last 20 years. In the DCI article Feb. 8, "Pending oil/gas leases worry home buyers" Bob Lario hit it on the head when he said, "This could kill us."
Not only could it hurt the realtors but it could destroy what we all have invested in our property over the years. This wonderful valley with its amazing sense of place, rural living, public lands, vineyards, ranches, scenery, cows, calves, and grandchildren plus all the many charms of the North Fork is why we live here.
I commend the commissioners for their show and tell in Paonia on March 15 to present calm information on the leasing of federal lands for gas drilling. Frankly it was hell when the county had to address the issue of drilling on private lands for methane gas. Hopefully the BLM will withdraw these lease decisions until they get their Resource Management Plan up to date.
I assume the realtors are also disclosing to potential buyers the recent approval of confinement livestock units in the North Fork. These units will have very negative impacts on our property values and certainly the quality of our rural lifestyle. These units could have been compatible in other areas of the county where they are already present.
Much was said about agriculture last summer during the "chicken wars." Let me remind you that agriculture ranks fourth in personal income at 2.9 percent (1.8 percent age services and 1.1 percent farm income). The number one personal income source in Delta County is non labor income at 47.5 percent of which 21.9 percent is transfer payments (Social Security and social services) and 25.7 percent is dividends and interest. That is the income that comes here to folks who chose to live here and who could live anywhere else, except they find this is a wonderful place to live. To have energy extraction industries receive preference or to throw confinement livestock units willy-nilly around our county will not encourage the folks receiving this income to come or to stay and will have disastrous effects on the property values of all.
We have an exodus in Delta. I have seen sugar beets, barley and hogs leave, plus reduced onion and bean acreages. Recently we have lost the sporting goods store, the lumberyard, the farmer's co-op, gas stations, the Dodge dealer and soon John Deere. We have gained a village Walmart and a few new shops but the economic action is in adjacent counties which have acquired a mass of big box stores, chain restaurants, pubs, etc. and JOBS. I and others love to live here for the assets the county has and we have become a bedroom community in the truest sense of the word, but a community with a rural lifestyle that is delightful and a treasure to behold. The gem of the North Fork is not to be found anywhere else in Colorado.
I believe it is time to really work at making this county continue to be attractive to that 47.5 percent, making them welcome and encouraging them to stay. Sometimes places get passed by for many reasons (the economics of development) but that does not mean that this county can't embrace the positive assets we have and be an even greater place to live by encouraging the small farms and creative entrepreneurs in our midst.
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