The fight to keep negative impacts of gas drilling out of the North Fork Valley got a boost as community members got a glimpse of the area from a higher plane. On Monday The Western Slope Conservation Center and Eco-Flight offered two tours of the North Fork Valley to graphically show the importance of the North Fork Valley Alternative Plan – a proposal created to provide a rallying point for residents concerned about oil and gas extraction on public lands. The Conservation Center’s director Sarah Sauter explains the purpose of the flights.
“The North Fork Alternative isn’t about any particular parcel or particular lease sale,” says Sauter. “It’s about all of the federal minerals that BLM controls and manages. So we’ll be looking where BLM minerals are on the landscape. So yes, the North Fork lease sale is included in that and it has been deferred, we don’t know what’s happening, thankfully it hasn’t been put up for sale again. But this plan is about something much bigger than just one lease sale. So this is just to get us a better feel for the protections that the North Fork Alternative would set in place.”
The flight lasted a half hour, with Sauter pointing out the proximity of water sources and schools to BLM lands, the almost startling green of our recently moistened spring landscape making the valley seem more jewel-like than ever.
When it was over, consultant and activist Pete Kolbenschlag talked about how an accident can impact more than the immediate area. He noted the recent leak of hydrocarbons in Parachute, Colorado.
“I think what we’re seeing in Parachute,” said Kolbenschlag, “with the benzene spill up there is a good case in point about what can happen when things go wrong, when there’s a spill, when there’s a leak. All our water systems here are very tightly related. They’re all connected, they’re interwoven. People irrigate off other people’s tail waters. And it’s basically a system of interlaced open ditches. And if there were any kind or spill or contamination, it could very quickly affect a lot of people very fast.”
“And when you look from the air at the landscape here,” he continued “and you see how small it is, and how connected it is, it’s hard to imagine how you could stick a highly industrial activity in the middle of all this agricultural land.”