Group forms to prevent gas development southwest of Carbondale
April 9, 2009
CARBONDALE, Colorado ” A new group is banding together in Carbondale to oppose oil and gas development on at least 221,500 acres of land southwest of the town.
The group, called the Thompson Divide Coalition, includes ranchers, farmers, hunters, anglers, recreationists, conservationists and community leaders. It formed in recent months with the goal of figuring out how to permanently protect federal lands in the area from leasing for oil and gas development. About 25 people appeared at the group’s last meeting.
“People have gotten together and said, ‘You know ” this is not a good place for development,” said Dorothea Farris, chair of the coalition. “Our goal is to find a way to eliminate the leases in an area that is too special to be leased and developed for oil and gas.”
Farris, a former Pitkin County commissioner, added, “Every time Pitkin County did a survey and said ‘Why do you choose to live in the Roaring Fork Valley?’ It’s quality of life, rural character, it’s clean air, clean water, sometimes it’s because you can still see the stars. All those things go away if you have highly increased development and a different kind of industrial development.”
Farris said the group’s primary area of focus includes the Thompson and Fourmile Creek watersheds, but it’s interested in surrounding areas as well. The area the Thompson Divide Coalition (TDC) has prioritized includes parts of a 122,000 acre roadless complex that links Grand and Battlement Mesas and the Elk Mountains.
“Development of these leases would fragment a cherished landscape and allow for development that could undermine the social, environmental, economic and public health of local communities,” TDC said in a statement.
Others contend gas development can be done in an environmentally responsible manner and benefits the economy. But TDC argues that outdoor recreation also is a huge economic boon.
TDC says there are 81 oil and gas leases on 100,200 acres of its area of focus. Of those, 41 were leased after the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule. Most of the leases aren’t yet producing natural gas. TDC questions the validity of leases issued in the roadless area after 2001 when George W. Bush suspended the roadless rule.
Jock Jacober, who lives near Deadman’s curve on Fourmile Road, said, “Fourmile Road just simply couldn’t tolerate the exercise of 41 leases. That would be an immense amount of truck traffic.”
Jacober is on the Garfield County Planning Commission. He said the Fourmile area is used literally year-round for recreation such as summer hiking and biking, fall hunting and winter snowmobiling and skiing, none of which he would want to see jeopardized by gas development.
Lisa Moreno, of Wilderness Workshop, told Carbondale town trustees this week that Cattle ranchers in the areas TDC is focusing on are finding that their grazing allotments have decreased in size as a result of gas leases.
TDC hopes to start a community dialogue about how to protect the area from future oil and gas development. It’s seeking a resolution of support from the Carbondale town trustees and other area governments. It said in a statement, “After a several-year period of relentless gas development pressure in western Colorado, and a sea of change in Washington, we now have a welcome breathing spell in which to consider how best to eliminate the threat of energy development in this special landscape.”
Anyone interested is encouraged to get involved by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The coalition’s members include: North Thompson Cattleman’s Association, Wilderness Workshop, Colorado Mountain Club, Roaring Fork Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, Aspen Valley Land Trust, the Wilderness Society, Colorado Mule Deer Association, EcoFlight, Mt. Sopris Nordic Council, Sustainable Settings, and ranchers and landowners.
Post Independent reporter John Stroud contributed to this story.
Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121