#DefendTheDunes …and Save the Valley!

• April 4th, 2018 •

I recently listened to the Sierra Club webinar regarding the “energy dominance mandate” for the Bureau of Land Management to put up 11 parcels/18,358 acres in Huerfano County. These nominated parcels are located on the eastern side of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, within the Huerfano River Valley. Most of the press has been focused on all the parcels are no more than 8 miles east of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, with one parcel less than a mile away. Several of the parcels for auction are adjacent to the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness, with one parcel directly adjacent to a “roadless area” known for its unique wildness.

In other words, we’re talking about a very large expanse of land (between Muddy Creek and the Huerfano River) that is less than 25 miles south of Westcliffe. If you look on a map, there are only two ways to get to that area via CO 69; either from the north through Westcliffe or south from Walsenberg. The impact that such a massive oil and gas operation would have on the Wet Mountain Valley is staggering. Just the truck traffic alone would make this area rumble. Add to that the introduction of light, noise and air pollution, with winds often blowing from the south, we are bound to be negatively impacted. We need to protect our quiet, dark valley treasure before all we love here is lost.

The potential impact on wildlife is also frightening. The Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife has identified that Sensitive Wildlife Habitat overlaps with 10 of the 11 parcels for sale. All of the parcels overlap with important habitat for elk and mule deer. One parcel has significant overlap with a portion of land set aside as a conservation easement through the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

On another note, is how the leasing process was recently changed to almost completely be absent of public comment. The process used to give a 30 day comment period along with a 30 day protest period. Now all the public gets is 10 days, period. The protest period starts the same day that the sale notice and final documents are posted. That time period ended on April 6.

I am concerned that this could be the Valley’s future if we do not take rightful action to stop the September lease sale. If this is of concern to you, please contact these officials and ask them to tell BLM to stop the sale of these oil /gas leases: members of Congress (Representative & Senators), State Representative and Senator, Huerfano and Custer County Commissioners, Governor Hickenlooper.

We mustn’t stand by and be witness to the pillage of the Wet Mountain Valley. I have seen the destruction of pristine areas to benefit the oil and gas industry and it is not pretty. If something of this magnitude comes to pass, there’s no going back and the scars left behind will take generations to restore. We, all the people that call this place home for all the reasons we do, would have much to lose…

“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders. Do not let selfish men and greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, riches or its romance.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

Debbie Adams, Rural Westcliffe

Editorial submitted to The Tribune on 4/4/18

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