CHC Clarifies Position on Lease Exchange Proposal

September 23, 2105 –

Dear friends of CHC,

I’m writing to let you know of an important development at CHC that clarifies our position on new leasing. The CHC Board no longer thinks there is a potential win-win for the North Fork Valley in linking the lease exchange proposed by SG Interests with a condition for mineral withdrawal in other parts of the valley. The Board voted unanimously on this issue. I would like to explain some of the background and rationale for our decision.

Background. We know, all too well, that good intentions can have unintended consequences. When CHC and the Conservation Center embarked on a journey of figuring out if we could take advantage of SG Interests’ proposed lease exchange to achieve some of our stated goals, our initial focus was finding a way to permanently protect as much public land across the valley as possible, including the 30,000 acres in the lower valley that we have successfully deferred twice.

Electric Mountain viewed from Hubbard Park, the area that SG Interests has proposed to acquire through a legislative lease exchange.

Electric Mountain viewed from Hubbard Park, the area that SG Interests has proposed to acquire through a legislative lease exchange.

As you may be aware, over the past year, CHC and the Conservation Center has been working collaboratively with the Delta County Commissioners to develop a proposal that would result in a mineral withdrawal and additional No Surface Occupancy protections for important public lands across the North Fork Valley. Delta County supported a proposal linking a mineral withdrawal to SG’s lease exchange in a letter to the Congressional delegation in early July. Since then, CHC’s Board and staff have met with well over 100 community members individually, at three smaller group discussions, and three larger public meetings. In addition, SG Interests and Congressman Tipton have stated their opposition to attaching any conservation measures to the lease exchange.

Here are the top reasons why CHC retracts its initial view that this proposal could be a positive move for the North Fork Valley.

  • A significant number of CHC members, although supportive of mineral withdrawal, are opposed to establishing new leases in our water and air sheds.
  • The recognition that protecting some areas of the watershed, while exposing other areas to new leasing, would lead to greater risks and amount to a false sense of security and protection.
  • The critical importance of protecting the biodiversity and recreational activities in the proposed lease exchange area of 30,000 acres of land up Stevens Gulch is ultimately a matter of environmental and economic concern. This area contains unique flora and fauna, such as purple martin habitat, mature aspen groves that provide nests for cavity-nesting birds, and large elk and deer populations. This area is widely used by hunters, snow mobilers, hikers, and birders.
  • Currently, there are over 100 primarily undeveloped leased parcels of more than 80,000 acres in the watershed and airshed of the North Fork Valley. Any new leases, even with added protections, would expose our valley to more risk. If already leased parcels are to be developed, CHC will prioritize obtaining additional conservation and mitigation measures to minimize the risks of these projects.

Thank You. In going through this process and supporting a mineral withdrawal proposal to our Congressional delegation, the Delta County Commissioners’ have demonstrated the importance of protecting the North Fork Valley and its contribution to the diverse economy of Delta County. We owe the BOCC a huge debt for their work on our behalf. In particular, County Administrator Robbie LeValley and Commissioner Mark Roeber were especially helpful.

The CHC Board would also like to thank Senator Michael Bennet and his staff for hearing our communities’ concerns and for working with communities like the North Fork Valley to find solutions to difficult issues like oil and gas development. Senator Bennet has proven to be a powerful advocate for our area.

PTNF1We, the CHC Board, thank all of them from the bottom of our hearts. Most importantly, we thank all of you who wrote letters, attended meetings, and provided your input on the proposal as well.

Next Steps. A new paradigm regarding the economic benefits of keeping our region clean and healthy, thriving as a unique food and wine hub, and becoming a magnet for outdoor recreation will, we trust, become the prevailing model we can work towards together. We recognize the wisdom in a recent economic study commissioned by Region 10 that cited agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing as the crucial economic drivers for our county. CHC looks forward to continuing to work with the Delta and Gunnison County BOCCs, Sen. Bennett, Sen. Gardner, and Congressman Tipton in the future.

We are holding a series of individual and small group meetings with CHC membership to brainstorm key next steps for CHC. The first of these meetings were held during the week of September 14th, and will continue for some time. Suggestions from the first meeting included the need for an updated strategic plan, an assessment of current challenges, and refinement of the strategy for dealing with new leases.

Kids’ Pasta Project Dinner & Silent Auction on Monday the 28th. Let us celebrate the coming together of diverse opinions regarding the mineral withdrawal and lease exchange. Meet us at Delicious Orchards on Monday the 28th at our 2nd annual Kids Pasta Project Dinner and Silent Auction!

Because we all care so much about protecting the Delta County Region from irresponsible oil and gas drilling, let’s eat, play and work together to make it happen. Call Lenore at 985-9220 or email to make your reservation today. You can also help us spread the word by inviting your friends on Facebook, but note that you still need to call or email KPP directly to make a dinner reservation.

CHC’s accomplishments over the years are a testament to the strength of our community. We look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead to protect our region from irresponsible oil and gas development.

John VDB Signature

John VanDenBerg, Ph.D.
CHC Board Chairperson

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