Act now: North Fork Valley under threat from December 2018 Oil and Gas Lease Sale

By WSCC 6 years ago

****UPDATE – NOVEMBER 2, 2018****


On November 2, the BLM announced the deferral of ALL remaining North Fork area parcels from the December 2018 Oil & Gas Lease Sale. Thank You to John W. Hickenlooper and Senator Michael Bennet for working so hard to ensure our local concerns are heard. We are so grateful for your support in protecting our resources in the North Fork Valley and beyond!

In total, BLM withdrew 58 parcels totaling nearly 75,000 acres across the state at the request of the State of Colorado. Additionally, earlier in October, BLM removed 142 parcels containing Greater Sage-Grouse habitat totaling approximately 141,478 acres from the December sale. The December lease sale, which originally included ~225,000 acres, will now include 23 parcels totaling 8,347 acres.

Click here to read the press release from Senator Bennet.

These parcels have been deferred until completion of the Uncompahgre Field Office’s Resource Management Plan. We anticipate the RMP will be completed in 2019. Stay tuned for more updates.


****UPDATE – OCTOBER 26, 2018****


Read the Final Environmental Assessment here

Click here for the BLM Colorado Lease Sale Page

Read WSCC’s joint press release on the December Lease Sale with The Wilderness Society and Conservation Colorado.

BLM Colorado plans to move forward with all remaining North Fork area parcels in the December 2018 Oil and Gas Lease Sale. The remaining ~2800 acres near Paonia Reservoir, Clear Fork, and Electric Mountain Roadless Areas will go for sale on December 13, 2018 despite strong local opposition, including the Town of Paonia and Gunnison County, as well as opposition from Senator Bennet and Governor Hickenlooper. We are currently in a 10 day protest period where individuals may formally protest the final environmental assessment and sale notice. Please follow the instructions from the BLM below.


  • All protests must be received by the BLM Colorado State Office, located at 2850 Youngfield St., Lakewood, CO 80215.
  • Protests MUST be received by 4pm on November 5.
  • You may file a protest in hardcopy form, by mail or by telefax directly to the BLM Colorado State Office. The BLM will not accept a protest transmitted electronically (e.g., by email, or social media means). Even if the BLM has previously corresponded with you by email, or social media means. A protest filed by fax must be sent to (303) 239-3799. A protest sent to a fax number other than the fax number identified or a protest filed by electronic mail will be dismissed. ***NO PROTESTS CAN BY FAILED BY EMAIL OR ONLINE***
  • A protest must state the interest of the protesting party, their mailing address, and reference the specific COC 5-digit serial number being protested. We will dismiss a protest listing the internal 4-digit parcel ID number. ***IF YOU PREVIOUSLY COMMENTED ON A SPECIFIC PARCEL NUMBER, YOU MUST UPDATE THE PROTEST WITH THE 5-digit COC serial number instead of the 4-digit parcel ID.***
    • PARCEL ID: 8320 = SERIAL #: COC79293
    • PARCEL ID: 8351 = SERIAL #: COC79294
    • PARCEL ID: 8140 = SERIAL #: COC79295
    • PARCEL ID: 8135 = SERIAL #: COC79296
    • PARCEL ID: 8138 = SERIAL #: COC79297

Here is a link to WSCC’s comments on the draft Environmental Assessment – CO Dec 2018 lease sale UFO EA comments FINAL

****UPDATE – September 11, 2018****

Final chance to submit comments in response to Lease Sale Draft EA – Deadline TODAY

Today is your last chance to submit substantive comments in response to the December 2018 Lease Sale Draft Environmental Assessment, which proposes 2800 acres of oil and gas leases in the North Fork of the Gunnison Watershed.

Every comment counts. In order to help you write your comment, we have put together two letter writing guides:

2018 Lease Sale EA Comment Letter Guide – WSCC Template and Prompts

2018 Lease Sale EA Comment Letter Guide – WSCC Topics and Resource Concerns

WSCC CO Dec 2018 Lease Sale UFO EA Comments FINAL

To submit your using BLM’s submission platform, follow this link.

For additional maps and information on the lease sale, and how to comment, visit the BLM ePlanning page.

The following are other relevant comments by the Town of Paonia and Gunnison County asking for deferral or No Action for the proposed leases:

Town of Paonia EA Comment Letter

Gunnison County BOCC EA Comment Letter

Dr. David Noe has also put together a memo that speaks to many of the local geologic hazards of concern: Geohaz Map Resources and Comments

Finally, once you submit you comment letter, contact your local elected officials and urge them to ask for withdrawal of ALL North Fork Valley area leases from the December 2018 Lease Sale.


****UPDATE – AUGUST 30, 2018****

BLM Moving Forward with Leasing Lands in North Fork of the Gunnison Watershed

On August 27, the BLM Uncompahgre Field Office released the preliminary Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the proposed December 2018 lease sale. The good news: the BLM has withdrawn 5,000 acres from the lease sale. The bad news: the BLM still plans to offer 2,800 acres in the lease sale, including parcels adjacent to Paonia Reservoir.

Additionally, the BLM neglected to consider comments from the Western Slope Conservation Center, key North Fork agricultural groups, dozens of individuals and even the Town of Paonia. Read our press release here.

The public now has the chance to comment on the Preliminary EA. The deadline to submit your comments to the BLM is September 11. If you submitted a comment during the Scoping Period, review the EA to ensure the BLM included and properly responded to your comment! WSCC and our partners will host several opportunities to learn more over the next 15 days, including informational meetings and comment writing workshops. See the list below for more details, and follow us on Facebook to stay up to date on breaking news and meeting announcements.


  • August 30 – 6pm – Paonia Library – EA Informational Meeting and Comment Letter Writing Workshop
  • September 6 – 6pm – Paonia Library – Flowers and Pollinators Presentation by Dr. David Inouye. Learn about Dr. Inouye’s 45+ year study and the impacts of the changing climate on our environment – you may get some useful information to supplement your comment!
  • September 8 – 10am-1pm – Paonia Town Park – North Fork Climate Action
  • September 10 – 6:30pm – Paonia Town Hall – Town Trustee special meeting on EA comment letter

For additional maps and information on the lease sale, and how to comment, visit the BLM ePlanning page. To comment, click the “Comment on Document” button in the far right column of the row for “Uncompahgre Field Office Preliminary Environmental Assessment”.

Finally, once you submit you comment letter, contact your local elected officials and urge them to ask for withdrawal of ALL North Fork Valley area leases from the December 2018 Lease Sale.

UPDATE – July 2018: Governor Hickenlooper submitted comments to the BLM in support of deferral of the North Fork lease sale parcels. Read more about his request here.

JULY 2018

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has announced plans to include lands in the North Fork Valley in its December 2018 lease sale. The BLM is proposing the sale of leases in lands surrounding the largest reservoir in the valley, as well as lands contiguous to Colorado Roadless Areas and directly above the town of Paonia. These are some of the same lands the local community joined together to oppose leasing in 2011 and 2012, prompting the BLM to consider a locally grown vision for the North Fork Valley that would keep energy development away from sensitive areas. The BLM is evaluating the North Fork Citizens’ Alternative in the ongoing Uncompahgre Resource Management Plan revision, however, this proposed lease sale ignores the local community, leaving the future of the North Fork Valley more threatened than ever.

The 15-day Scoping period ended July 17th. The next opportunity to comment will be after August 27th, when the Environmental Assessment (EA), will be released. To submit your own scoping comment, visit our friends at Citizens for a Healthy Community for comment writing resources. It’s not too early to begin your more detailed letter for the lease sale environmental assessment. We expect another 15-day comment period for the EA.

Read Western Slope Conservation Center’s two SCOPING COMMENTS submitted on July 17th:
North Fork Parcel Comments and Coal Mine Methane Comments


Sign your name here to tell the BLM that you oppose the leases surrounding the Paonia Reservoir and contiguous the Colorado roadless areas.  Significant irreparable damage could occur from this new oil and gas leasing and corresponding fracking in these areas.

Lease Sale Info Meeting

The Western Slope Conservation Center co-hosting a public information meeting with Citizens for a Healthy Community on Wednesday, July 11th, at 6pm at Paonia Town Hall. Thanks to all who join us to learn more about the proposed leases and how you can respond.

Why is this so important to western Colorado? Oil and gas development is incompatible with a healthy future for the spectacular North Fork Valley of western Colorado. The communities of the North Fork Valley are strongly opposed to oil and gas development, largely due to the negligible economic gains and the significant irreparable damage that could occur from oil and gas activities in the watershed.

  • Paonia Reservoir: Included in the December lease sale are parcels surrounding the Paonia Reservoir. Surface spills would immediately and irreparably harm the farms and people of the North Fork Valley, who daily use water from Paonia Reservoir for irrigation needs. Additionally, one of the largest landslides in recent history is located just upstream from parcels nominated for lease. Oil and gas development in this area could pose serious risk not only to water quality, but to the geologic integrity of the Paonia Reservoir itself and surrounding slopes.
  • Clean Water: The North Fork Valley is a hub of organic agriculture and one of only two federally recognized wine regions in Colorado. Protection of the valley’s water supply relies on protecting the North Fork from source-to-use. Pollution must be prevented from entering this critical water system. For farmers and the agricultural economy, water quantity and quality are both of utmost importance. Organic agriculture, specialty crops, and high-quality hay all depend on abundant water free from contamination. Surface contamination and spills, which occur regularly in Colorado oil and gas fields, could spread rapidly through the irrigation systems that water the valley. Oil and gas development is well-known to contaminate water supplies, both above and below ground, and to harm water bodies, rivers and source areas. That is a risk too great for operators in the valley, home to Colorado’s highest concentration of organic farms, an agritourism haven, and major headwaters to the Colorado River system.
  • Wildlife: Of particular concern are impacts to mule deer, elk, Canada lynx, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, bald eagle and greenback cutthroat trout. Coupled with the impacts of existing energy development, additional leasing and development directly threatens rare mid-elevation habitat and the wildlife which depends upon it. The state currently does not possess adequate data on elk and mule deer populations in the area of the proposed development, and CPW staff have indicated that recent elk population numbers in the area have been in steep decline over the last few years. The local elk and mule deer are essential to the local economy, not to mention the ecology of our landscapes.

The BLM had been deferring leasing in the North Fork Valley while it revised the Uncompahgre RMP and made a long-term plan for managing the many values of this special landscape, but under Trump administration policies the agency is plowing forward with highly controversial, short-sighted leasing proposals. With its drilling above all other uses strategy for public lands, the Administration is deaf to the voices and vision the local community has worked with the BLM on for years. “Energy dominance” for the purpose of enriching fossil fuel industry executives could well result in farmers, winemakers and ranchers losing their livelihoods.

The North Fork Valley is too wild, too beautiful, and too productive to be sacrificed for oil and gas interests. Efforts to move forward with leasing in the North Fork Valley will continue to be met with strong opposition. The valley has produced energy for our country from public lands for over a century from its coal mines. Now is the time to protect remaining wildlands in the area for future generations to enjoy.

We urge you to write about how this proposed lease sale could have lasting negative impacts on the region and to again highlight the years of hard work put into a proposal put forward by the local community.

Sign your support today!
The Western Slope Conservation Center will be submitting scoping comments during the 15-day period. Please show your support for the North Fork – and express your concern regarding impacts from these proposed lease sales – by signing our online comment letter here.


For additional maps and information on the lease sale, and how to comment, visit the BLM ePlanning page.

To discuss the concerns around the proposed lease sale, please reach out:
Alex Johnson, Executive Director, Western Slope Conservation Center, [email protected], 970-527-5307

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