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Coalition Demands Public Hearings Around Colorado Oil and Gas Leasing

Date
August 28, 2018
Contact
Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians, (303) 437-7663, jnichols@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Climate + Energy
Paonia, CO—A coalition of community advocates, environmental and conservation organizations and dozens of individuals today called on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to honor its due process obligations and hold hearings around the agency’s latest plan to auction public, taxpayer owned lands and minerals for oil and gas extraction in Colorado and the benefit of private entities.

The letter comes as the Bureau of Land Management has proposed to auction more than 236,000 acres of public lands, including in Colorado’s North Fork Valley, where past leasing proposals have generated significant controversy.

The North Fork Valley of western Colorado, where the towns of Paonia, Crawford and Hotchkiss are located, is home to thriving agriculture, agri-tourism and prime outdoor recreation including hunting, fishing, and hiking. The local economy depends on clean and abundant water for irrigation and drinking.  The North Fork Valley is unique in Colorado, with the highest altitude vineyards in the world, largest producer of fruit and largest concentration of organic farms in the State, and deemed one of 15 irreplaceable ecosystems in the country Too Wild To Drill by the Wilderness Society.

Other sensitive lands that are on the auction block include vital mule deer and sage grouse habitat, lands near the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge in North Park, lands on the Roan Plateau, and lands next to Dinosaur National Monument.

The Bureau of Land Management’s proposal has already generated considerable amounts of controversy and even a letter from Governor Hickenlooper opposing leasing in the North Fork Valley and other parts of Colorado.

Yesterday, the Bureau of Land Management released an analysis of its plans to auction public lands for fracking in December.  Unfortunately, due to recent rollbacks by the Trump Administration, the public is being given only 15 days to review and to provide written comments on the North Fork Leases. Communities impacted by this lease sale have been stripped of their right to comment publicly because those lease sales are not subject to a public environmental review process. The short comment period falls over Labor Day Weekend, effectively shortening the public’s opportunity to comment even more. Local government bodies have been struggling to adapt to the shortened comment periods as well, due to the requirements of Colorado’s public meetings laws.

A public hearing would provide the necessary public input on public lands leasing decisions currently not afforded to many communities and would provide more time for concerned members of the public in the North Fork to meaningfully engage in leasing decisions that will impact future generations. According to the coalition, “Absent public hearings, the December 2018 oil and gas lease sale will stand as an affront to the American public interest and our right to due process.”

Today’s demand for a public hearing comes as the Trump Administration is putting unprecedented amounts of western public lands on the auction block for fracking.  Under an “Energy Dominance” agenda, the Administration has made oil and gas leasing a singular priority on public lands, even as these lands are supposed to be managed for multiple uses.

All told in 2018, more than 3.8 million acres of public lands in the American West are being put on the auction block for oil and gas development, an area three times the size of Grand Canyon National Park.

Other Contact
Andrew Forkes-Gudmundson, Citizens for a Healthy Community, (970) 399-9700, andrew@chc4you.org, Lisa Niermann, North Fork Valley Community Rights Advocates, 970-417-5201, lmniermann67@gmail.com
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