Protections for major portions of the North Fork Valley to be included in the GORP Act

By WSCC 1 month ago

On Tuesday, April 9th, 2024, the Delta County Board of Commissioners voted to support the Gunnison  Outdoor Resources Protection Act (GORP) and the inclusion of what would be significant, permanent protections for the North Fork Valley. 

This represents a major step toward addressing the threat of oil and gas development in and around the North Fork Valley communities of Crawford, Paonia, Hotchkiss and Cedaredge. Building on years of efforts, the Western Slope Conservation (WSCC) worked with Senator Bennet’s office and Delta County to arrive at draft legislation that would, with the passage of GORP,  provide for a permanent mineral withdrawal for a significant portion of BLM lands in Delta County, as well as additional No Surface Occupancy designations in the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest.

This is a consensus and community driven solution a decade in the making by WSCC, Senator Bennet, Delta County, and our communities. We thank all involved for addressing these long standing issues and taking an important step in protecting the water, wildlife, ecosystems and air for current and future generations in Delta County, the Western Slope and the whole of Colorado. 

This proposal represents a clear alignment with the provisions within the proposed North Fork Alternative Plan (NFAP) that, among other measures, calls for No Leasing and No Surface Occupancy protections for the entire valley floor, area water resources and wildlife habitat. Developed in 2013, the NFAP was included as a sub-alternative in the BLM’s Uncompahgre Field Office draft Resource Management Plan as Alternative B. WSCC’s 2024 NFAP update guides our engagement with the BLM during the current RMP amendment process.

Taken together with the Thompson Divide mineral withdrawal, and the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act, the GORP Act would be a major step toward permanently protecting one of the largest expanses of roadless forests in Colorado that are the source of the water we rely on for our rivers and farms here in our valley. We commend Senator Bennet’s consensus-driven approach to achieving a long term vision of conservation for the landscapes and communities of the North Fork Valley and Gunnison County lands. 

Including this mineral withdrawal for Delta County, the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative and the GORP Act also include a Wilderness Area designation on the Gunnison County portion of Mt. Lamborn and near Erickson Springs, a Wildlife Management Area designation for Pilot Knob and Clear Fork areas, and a Special Management Area for Kebler Pass, among other land designations across Gunnison County. 

While this mineral withdrawal does not cover every acre of public lands in our watershed, it does provide certainty that areas like Jumbo Mountain, Mount Lamborn, Town of Paonia and Town of Hotchkiss drinking water source areas, and the entire valley floor will be permanently protected from oil and gas development. This is a tremendous achievement for the communities of the North Fork Valley.

Categories:
  News, Public Lands, Watershed
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