Jumbo Mountain, which lies on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land just northeast of Paonia, is beloved by locals and visitors alike, offering trail users 360-degree views of the pristine North Fork Valley, ample opportunities for wildlife viewing, and world-class mountain biking.
Unfortunately for those of us who enjoy the Jumbo trails, the BLM, meant to manage public lands for multiple uses, seems to have one use in mind for our public lands: oil and gas development.
During the draft Uncompahgre Field Office (UFO) Resource Management Plan (RMP) public comment period in 2016, many North Fork citizens, including the Town of Paonia, voiced support for designating 5000 acres of Jumbo Mountain as a Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA), a BLM land management designation where "recreation opportunities and recreation setting characteristics are recognized for their unique value, importance, and/or distinctiveness."
In the proposed RMP released on June 28, the BLM threw us a bone: a 1600-acre SRMA designation for Jumbo. The reduced acreage is disappointing, but the splinter of the bone I'm choking on is that the SRMA stipulates no additional protective measures against oil and gas development on Jumbo Mountain.
Doesn't this contradict the protections implied by the SRMA designation? What kind of "value" or "importance" is recognized by leaving Jumbo open to drilling? Who wants to hike, bike, or ride a horse amongst drilling rigs?
If managed effectively, outdoor recreation can be a lucrative part of the North Fork's diverse, sustainable economy. In 2017, Outdoor Industry Association reported the outdoor recreation industry generates $887 billion dollars nationally, creating over 7.6 million jobs.
As it stands, the Jumbo Mountain SRMA has inadequate stipulations to effectively manage recreation, taking potential outdoor recreation dollars out of our pockets and putting oil and gas companies' wishes and profits ahead of our local community.
Find out more about the RMP at http://westernslopeconservation.org/public-lands/blm-ufo-rmp-2/