Author: Pete Kolbenschlag » Support new wilderness in the Central Mountains of Colorado



Senator Udall and Representative Polis are both working to protect special public lands in Central Colorado with a Wilderness designation. Rep. Polis has introduced a bill and Sen. Udall is considering a bill.


The most important thing you can do to ensure these lands get the protection they deserve is to submit a comment on Sen. Udall’s website or write a letter to the editor.


What is Sen. Udall’s Central Mountains Outdoor Heritage Proposal?


U.S. Senator Mark Udall is proposing to protect nearly 240,000 acres in the Central Rockies of Colorado with wilderness and similar designations. These lands are some of Colorado’s most precious, ecologically important public lands.


Sen. Udall’s Central Mountains Outdoor Heritage Proposal, which he is discussing with mountain communities, is a bold vision that will add to our nation’s wilderness legacy and support Colorado’s recreation- and agriculture-based economies.


Sen. Udall’s wilderness proposal by the numbers:


  • 235,773 acres
  • 12 new stand alone areas and 17 additions to existing Wilderness Areas
  • Includes national forest and adjacent BLM lands
  • Spans three counties – Pitkin, Eagle and Summit.



Fuel Fix » House strips oil shale subsidy from spending bill

Fuel Fix » House strips oil shale subsidy from spending bill.

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives has approved a Colorado Democrat’s proposal to strip a $25 million oil shale subsidy from an appropriations bill. The Daily Sentinel reports the proposal by Reps. Jared Polis of Colorado and Gerry Connolly of Virginia narrowly passed in a 208-207 vote Wednesday [June 6].

North Fork Valley residents, businesses, and officials praise BLM decision to defer oil and gas lease parcels

Written from News Release–May 2, 2012

The North Fork Valley greeted the good news that the Bureau of Land Management is deferring 22 oil and gas leases from the August 2012 sale with excitement and relief.


From elected officials and commissions, to the area’s agricultural producers and small businesses that line the town centers of Paonia, Hotchkiss and Crawford—community members were unified in their opposition to these leases and now in their gratitude that they have been deferred.


“The BLM made a good decision,” said Neal Schwieterman, Mayor of Paonia. “I am proud of my community and I am grateful that the BLM listened to what we had to say.”


Local businesses, from real estate brokers to restaurants and guest ranches raised concerns about the impacts oil and gas development would have on the local economy. Bob Lario owner of ReMAX Mountain West Real Estate of Paonia also expressed relief at the news.


“We appreciate that the agency carefully considered what the citizens were telling it. I also think all of us in the real estate business are glad to pass this good news along to our prospective buyers.”


People raised real and legitimate issues, most recently in front of a BLM citizen advisory group and also in front of decision-makers in Washington DC. In addition to the local governments and area businesses, much of the concern came from farmers, ranchers, and food producers and centered on safeguarding the area’s rich agricultural heritage. Residents noted that this outcome shows that when communities stand and work together, citizens have an impact.


“Thank you first must go to the incredible community of the North Fork,” said Landon Deane a Colorado legacy rancher, “and to the restaurants and chefs and people in the Roaring Fork and beyond who understand that quality is important. We can all rest a bit easier now knowing that our food and water will stay clean and safe, and our valley will stay intact.”


The North Fork ‘brand’ is becoming increasingly known, as something unique, worth protecting, and marketable. Agriculture in the North Fork unites a century-old tradition with new and emerging trends and markets, and the changing value placed in high-quality, carefully produced food. Growing numbers of visitors come to the North Fork as part of Colorado’s ‘agritourism’ industry.


The North Fork is an American Viticultural Area (AVA)—one of only two in Colorado; and the twelve wineries it includes account for $2 million annually in direct sales and an additional $5 to 10 million in indirect sales. Products from the area supply top restaurants in towns across western Colorado—including in Aspen, Crested Butte, Vail, and Telluride. This emerging economy, coupled with the area’s more standard tourist fare—hunting season—is a driving force in the rural community.


Last week, dozens of area residents attended a local meeting of the BLM’s Southwest Resource Advisory Council to voice their concerns to the stakeholder representatives that advise the BLM on land use matters.


“Usually a lot of the public does not attend these meetings—which are not the most exciting affairs,” said Andrea Robinsong a member of the RAC representing conservation interests. “So when this many people showed up, with these well-thought out and credible statements, the council noticed.  BLM noticed too.”


And at the end of last month, a delegation from the North Fork travelled to Washington DC to meet with White House environmental officials, the BLM, Colorado’s Senators and members of the Congressional Delegation and staff.


“We live in a wonderful valley and are passionate about preserving it. I t is a special part of Colorado worth protecting,” said Ty Gillespie of Azura Cellars, one of the North Fork’s dozen wineries. “The community came together with a message it delivered in Montrose and Washington DC, that leasing these lands for an industrial use in the middle of and surrounding our wineries, our vineyards, our farms and communities raised awareness and it raised the stakes, bringing the issue to people who, perhaps, had not been paying attention to seemingly routine or faraway details.”


When the BLM first announced the lease sale in December it provoked community uproar. A thousand people turned out to meetings sponsored by local community groups, from a population of only several thousand. Nearly 3,000 comments were submitted in the BLM’s initial scoping comment period.


The proposal would have leased these lands under a flawed land use plan from the 1980s that fails to protect the land, water and people of Colorado’s North Fork. The parcels proposed for oil and gas leasing—included water sources, major irrigation canals, grazing permits and ranching operations—and were scattered among and surrounding farms, wineries, markets and restaurants, and school. No consideration was given in the decades-old land use plan—and therefore no oil and gas stipulations or management prescriptions exist—to maintain the area’s agricultural operations, its businesses, or any of the other unique community features.


Although the agency has not explained its decision, other than to note that it planned to conduct further analysis, it is clear that on closer look the agency realized that leasing these parcels was problematic and likely contrary to law and regulation. Comments from all direction consistently and credibly claimed that the BLM’s existing management plan for the area could not be used to support the decision to lease these lands, that a more robust Environmental Impact Statement was needed, and that that the BLM should first complete its revision to the Resource Management Plan.


But whatever the reasons behind this announcement, the BLM made the right decision, and for that many people are grateful in Colorado’s North Fork Valley and beyond.


Colorado Independent » Farmers, businesses, government officials give BLM an earful over gas lease auction

Bald eagles go there to roost in the winter. The pastoral setting is home to one of the highest concentrations of organic farms in Colorado. It is one of just two designated wine regions in the state.

But that may change soon.

The Bureau of Land Management is proposing to offer 21 of the 22 parcels eligible for auction this August in a section of western Colorado where oil and gas companies have set their sights. A few coal mines and dozens of oil and gas wells are already scattered throughout the area, but many residents say additional drilling could be detrimental to the region’s economy, which relies on clean land to grow fruits and vegetables that end up on countless dinner and restaurant tables.

The prospect of the lease sale is already damaging the reputations of farmers and ranchers who say they are encountering customers who falsely believe their food is polluted from oil and gas drilling.

“At our ranch we raise natural grass-fed beef and specialty hays, which are sold to buyers across the country who are interested in quality products that are not tainted with chemicals,” said Landon Deane at Eagle Butte Ranch. “Leasing this land threatens our domestic and irrigation water supplies, and could cause irreversible damage to our reputation and the quality of our products.”

Read the full story at:

Farmers, businesses, government officials give BLM an earful over gas lease auction | The Colorado Independent.

KVNF Community Radio » Local Motion: Pete Kolbenschlag

North Fork Oil and Gas Leases

Pete Kolbenschlag is the director of Mountain West Strategies. For the past 15 years he has worked on campaigns for public lands, conservation issues and wildlife, including oil and gas issues with Bureau of Land Management and other agencies. KVNF’s Ariana Brocious spoke to Kolbenschlag about his views on the 30,000 acres of proposed oil and gas leases in the North Fork, the Bureau of Land Management process, and how he thinks the public can respond.

Listen to the interview here

Local Motion: Pete Kolbenschlag | Mountain West Strategies

SkyHiDailyNews » Polis’s plan whittles Hidden Gems lands

Polis’s plan whittles Hidden Gems lands |

…The Hidden Gems coalition asked Polis to designate nearly 244,000 acres in Eagle and Summit counties as wilderness. After holding public hearings and having his staff explore specific areas, Polis pared about 74,000 acres out of the Hidden Gems request. The draft bill proposes wilderness or some other level of protection on nearly 170,000 acres, according to an analysis by Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop, a proponent of Hidden Gems.

“In our mind, it’s really a great step forward,” said Pete Kolbenschlag, director of the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign. “We don’t look at it as a disappointment.”