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December 18, 2011 10:38 PM UTC

BLM to Lease North Fork for Oil and Gas Drilling?

  • by: ClubTwitty

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

The BLM is considering leasing some 30,000 acres in Colorado’s North Fork Valley, surrounding the town of Paonia, and extending up valley past Somerset and down valley to Hotchkiss, south almost all the way to Crawford.  

CNN ireport:

Oil and gas leases threaten beautiful Western Colorado valley

The Bureau of Land Management announced an Oil and Gas Lease offering…  that surrounds the North Fork Valley of The Gunnison and the towns of Paonia, Crawford and Hotchkiss . “It looks like Custer’s last stand,” said one resident.

The good folk of the North Fork are none too pleased and the Home Guard is mobilizing rapidly. Citizens are convening meetings, combining expertise, and providing detailed information that the agency–so far–has failed to provide itself.

The federal minerals–under both public and private lands-would be auctioned off during the August 2012 lease sale in Lakewood, starting at a few dollars per acre. The BLM is currently conducting its ‘scoping’ on the project, and anticipates issuing a cursory Environmental Assessment sometime early in the year.  

The BLM believes that it can put these lands up for oil and gas leasing based on its Resource Management Plan from the 1980s. But people familiar with the North Fork know that plan does not address the resources that exist here today, if it ever did.

The agency is proposing leasing numerous lands in and around Paonia State Park, for instance, even though the RMP does not even note, let alone manage for impacts to a State Park; and within municipal and other culinary source water areas, despite not identifying, noting, or providing any management to protect these resources.

The community message board–which usually helps with lost dogs, hay sales, rides to DIA and the like–was overwhelmed, so a dedicated FaceBook page has sprung up.

Expect this one to be big and noisy.  

There is a reason, of course, the locals are passionate, as anyone who has visited the North Fork should be aware.  The CNN post continues:

This valley is home to many organic farms, orchards, vineyards and ranches and recently has been a described as “An American Provence”  by author, Thomas P. Huber.  The valley is bordered by Grand Mesa National Forest, The West Elk Wilderness and Gunnison National Forest and is a fabulous recreation area for hikers, cyclists, skiers, hunters and fishermen.

Right now initial scoping comments are due soon after the New Year, although locals are pushing for an extension. Meanwhile folks are not waiting to gather the information needed to stop this project in its tracks.

It may indeed look like ‘Custer’s Last Stand.’  But recall how that one ended for the Feds.  


22 thoughts on “BLM to Lease North Fork for Oil and Gas Drilling?

  1. The whole area, but especially Paonia,  is gorgeous.  The mild climate that has long made it the home of beautiful orchards has, over more  recent years, allowed the development of vineyards, wineries,  with sweet B&Bs, a top notch restaurant, The Flying Fork.

    We had occasion to visit after fall color was long faded in the high country and mainly faded here in Denver metro to find the big, abundant flame colored cotton woods of the area were still spectacular, the farms, orchards and ranches arguably the most beautiful left in our state.  

    At the same time, in minutes you can be beyond  the orchards and in spectacular stark dessert that looks just like a young Clint Eastwood is going to come riding over the ridge. Old Colorado survives in this wonderful place along with support for artists,  artisans, music, fairs and festivals.  

    For those of us who used to love places like Carbondale back in the day, the small friendly town of Paonia feels like what we miss; that mixture of old time farming, ranching and, yes, mining folk with creative newcomers, all loving and treasuring the beauty of a still affordable place to live (compared to anything in the Aspen sphere of influence) and the kind, neighborly, mutually supportive community.

    As we run out of places where people can live this kind of life and tourists and hunters can experience what’s left of the old western ways in Colorado, we should be very wary of using up these remaining priceless, irreplaceable jewels, sacrificing them forever in the service of another boom and bust cycle.  I hope our Paonia can survive as the magical place it is.

    1. if I pointed out the following as a reason the BLM is so interested in opening up 30,000 acres to gas and oil drilling?

      An interesting thing to note is that billionaire, Bill Koch, has extensive private property, coal mining and oil and gas interests in the area.

      1. He wants to create a private playground for himself and friends completely cut off from the outside, workers (unfortunately ordinary humans can’t be completely done without) to make no eye contact, sign away right to breath a word about the Lord of the Manor, that sort of thing.  The rest can just be trashed for all he cares, I’m sure.

        1. claims it was not the entity that nominated these parcels.  Unfortunately, although these are public (and owned by other than the would-be driller private) land and publicly-owned minerals, one might think we would get to know such things about who has designs on what we, the American People, own collectively.  But, alas, that is not the case.  The nomination of such is cloaked behind some proprietary nonsense.  Disclosure should be the price of doing business with the public, but again industry rules and the people should just accept its plans for us and our communities.  

  2. Professor Thomas Huber, who teaches geography and environmental science at the University of Colorado, says that the North Fork is a lot like the Provence region of southern France.

    “I have talked about luscious wines and succulent fruit and exquisite dinners. But there may be no more evocative experience of the two valleys than the smell of new-mown hay in the fields at dusk. If a person were to close their eyes, they could not tell if they were in Provence or the North Fork Valley. That sweet, earthy odor is part of the beauty of these places.”

    The main difference to Huber is the relatively short history of small organic farms and wineries in the North Fork compared to one centuries old in Provence. (my emphasis) In other words the North Fork is in the process of becoming a place culturally and agriculturally similar to a part of southern France.

    And a beautiful, treasured art inspiring, independent family farming, food and wine lovers’ heaven of a part.

    So we can have a sustainable treasure to enrich our American landscape and culture and help preserve small independent farming for centuries or we can just say “Screw it. We’d rather use it up and throw it away when the finite resources are played out or become unprofitable. After that we can always pave it over with strip malls.

      1. maybe in the name of like-minded friends and family as Christmas or whatever presents?  Most of us don’t live there but, trust me, you can’t go wrong protecting it. It’s a great place to visit and enjoy. Once you do, it will have a special place in your heart.

        Paonia has quality live music on a regular basis and the sweet historic western downtown (walk the whole thing in a  few minutes) even has something that hardly any pop 1500 town can boast anymore, a movie theater with current movies. And real practical stores, not just tourist/ boutique stuff.  You know, like a real drug store.  In town hotel about a block off the main drag and in town B&Bs.  A little brewery/bar that also makes the best root beer and cherry soda (local cherries as long as they last) you ever had, not too sweet.

        And just great, wonderful people. I’m going to lose it if that town and that valley get ruined.  

        1. to organizations he considers reputable, I’d be up for that. I’m ready to put my money where my mouth is on this one. And I trust Twitty so whoever needs the $$$ to fight this one just needs to let us folks know how to donate.

          Great idea, btw. Being proactive always makes me feel a better.  

          1. Citizens for a Healthy Community


            CHC focuses pretty exclusively on oil and gas development in and around Delta County; probably as much a ‘lead’ group as any.

            But it really is a community effort with numerous organizations coming together…

            The Conservation Center


            Recent merged organizations of Paonia’s two longstanding conservation groups, cover a range of issues.  

        2. BLM could stand hearing about it now, at the level of the State Office.  The State Director is Helen Haskins.  

          BLM should not be considering this activity for the North Fork, let alone under a land use plan that predates the last oil and gas boom in the state by ten years.  

          Nothing in that plan describe, mostly barely even identifies, the North Fork of today, let alone provide any management framework that can protect it.  

          BLM should complete its updated management plan for the area (due out in 2013) before it even considers if any lands in the area are appropriate for this industrial use.

          BLM CO State Office



          1. has an excellent list of relevant talking points to make when you call the BLM. Well thought out, sensible.

            For folks that aren’t totally up to speed on this issue, after reading through them, the thought of a phone call is much less intimidating.  

            1. The due date for those is currently 1/9, but today the Delta County commissioners unanimously agreed to ask BLM for a 30-day extension. Numerous other requests have gone in.  But 1/9 for now to be safe.  

              In any case, calls to the state office reminding the agency that this matters to state citizens is helpful.  If you bump into a Senator over the holidays, you might might bend an ear if you can.  The more attention this one gets, the better.  

    1. Mt. Lamborn (along with lands End) frames the classic image of the North Fork.  Mt. Lamborn is on the left, and sits mostly just outside of the West Elk Wilderness–one of Colorado’s original (1964) and largest.  

      The lease ends abruptly at a national forest roadless area on the flanks of Mt. Lamborn,  widely recognized for exceptional wildlife values, including black bear fall concentration area (they come from up to 40 miles away across the West Elk to feed on the abundant acorns and other favorite, healthy (for bears) food.  

      The second image is Mt. Jumbo, which sits between Paonia and everyone’s favorite piece of Appalachia, Somerset.  Its Paonia end, depicted here, has become highly valued by the local community for its close-in recreational uses.  

      BLM is proposing that this whole area be leased, even though its land use plan never mentions that anyone, let alone many, values the area for recreation nor provides any stipulations or management prescriptions to manage oil and gas in regard to this public resource.  

      Again, if people love the North Fork, please get involved.  More information and such will continue to get posted at the FB page above, that itself includes links to where you can find all levels of details on the proposal.  

      Finally, at 3:30 PM today (12/20) and tomorrow (12/21) there will be interviews with activists, experts, and BLM at

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