Delta County and CHC join forces on lease swap

Photo by Jane Reed

Photo by Jane Reed

Look at this! A county that supports the will of its citizens!

From Citizens for a Healthy Community

Delta County Supports Mineral Withdrawal for the North Fork
July 9, 2015 –

This week the Delta County Commissioners sent a letter and map to U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, and Rep. Scott Tipton requesting a fluid mineral withdrawal and other legislative protections for public lands across the North Fork Valley.

Areas proposed for a fluid mineral withdrawal include the BLM lands to the north of the mesas along Highways 92 and 133, BLM and national forest lands along the flanks of Mt. Lamborn and Landsend Peak, and the BLM lands along Minnesota Creek including Jumbo Mountain.

We have reached a point of consensus on this proposal working with Delta County, recognizing that some development is going to happen in the upper North Fork Valley in areas adjacent to where SG Interests wants to acquire new leases.

This consensus position recognizes the need for continued conversation about public lands values in the area proposed for new leases, and provides the commitment from Delta County for all stakeholders to be part of determining details of a memorandum of understanding for the proposed swap area and surrounding areas. As the County Commissioners note in their letter, this is the beginning of a process and the county plans to engage with the community in future conversations.

This proposal would remove a significant portion of public lands from the threat of future lease sales and provide greater certainty for businesses and residents alike. It would help protect the North Fork Valley’s outstanding quality of life for years to come.

Following the first announcement of a proposed 30,000 acre lease sale from the BLM in Dec. 2011, the community responded overwhelmingly. The first round of public comment resulted in nearly 3,000 letters. People were concerned about leasing BLM lands that included their irrigation ditches and water wells, bordered farms, ranches, schools and town limits, and that provided for the amazing views that contribute to the valley’s character.

It’s important to remember that the lease sale fight is not yet over. Those sales were deferred, not cancelled. It wasn’t too long ago that hundreds of you were packing into community meetings and writing letters to the BLM asking for all 30,000 acres to be withdrawn from the lease sale.

During that deferral we have been proactive in efforts to protect the North Fork’s public lands. First we worked with the community to create the North Fork Alternative Plan, an administrative effort to obtain protections through the BLM Resource Management Plan revision process. Since 2013 we have made the case that the North Fork’s public lands warrant permanent legislative protection.

By removing significant public lands from the threat of future development and requiring legislative protections on other public and split estate lands, this will allow for a more focused and effective approach watchdogging development where it does occur.

A large portion of the upper North Fork Valley, in the Muddy Creek area along County Road 265, is already leased for oil and gas development. Now SG Interests wants to acquire nearly 30,000 acres adjacent to existing leases and development. The area that SG wants to acquire is important to many in the community, for recreation, wildlife, and water supplies. We continue to be concerned about where and how this activity occurs and even where it is permitted. We will always insist on full and robust environmental review, community input, and that best practices be used to safeguard all the resources, including keeping all activity out of the most sensitive places.

We look forward to working with the community, Delta County, Gunnison County, and all three members of the Congressional delegation to obtain the enduring protection that the North Fork Valley’s public lands deserve and to have a conversation about placing additional best management practices, safeguards, and protections on development where it does occur in the area.

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From The Daily Sentinel

Delta County, group agree 
on land swap, gas lease deal

Delta County commissioners and a citizens group have reached agreement on a proposal to have Congress withdraw some acreage from availability for leasing for oil and gas development in the North Fork Valley as part of a bill authorizing a lease exchange involving the valley.

The county informed U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, all of Colorado, about the proposal in a letter this week.

SG Interests has proposed trading about 30,000 acres of controversial federal leases in the Thompson Divide area southwest of Glenwood Springs for a similar amount of proposed leases on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests, west of McClure Pass.

About two-thirds of the proposed leases would be in Delta County, and one-third in Mesa County, other than about 600 acres in Gunnison County.

The Citizens for a Healthy Community group in the North Fork Valley has been concerned that in eliminating drilling impacts somewhere else, the exchange would shift those impacts into the valley. The group has argued that the exchange also should include permanent protections from drilling in other parts of the valley, where it has opposed federal oil and gas leasing proposals.

The group’s executive director, Jim Ramey, said it has agreed with the county on a proposal to withdraw a sizable amount of acreage from potential federal leasing in the valley and to protect some other acreage through no-surface-occupancy restrictions, as part of a lease swap bill.

“It is a very big step in a positive direction, is what I would characterize it as,” Ramey said of the agreement. “I’m appreciative of the county commissioners taking that step to agree to a point of consensus with us.”

The county in a news release Friday called the proposal the first step in a lengthy process.

“Delta County looks forward to working with all stakeholders during the legislative and regulatory process and will continue to push for the locally developed agreement as part of any legislative package,” the county said.

SG Interests couldn’t be reached for immediate comment late Friday afternoon.

“We’re glad to hear that Delta County has reached local consensus for a path forward on revised legislation,” Bennet spokesman Adam Bozzi said Friday.

“We appreciate Delta County’s work and will respect and advocate for their position on management of natural resources within the county as the legislative process moves forward. This continues to be a constructive process moving towards a broad solution for managing the Thompson Divide and areas affected by the proposed lease exchange.”

Ursa Resources also hopes to trade some 12,000 acres of Thompson Divide leases for a similar amount of proposed leases southeast of Rangely in Rio Blanco County, which likewise would require legislative action.

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