Pitkin County, neighbor to the much more heavily drilled Garfield County, clearly has a different agenda when it comes to natural gas production. The Pitkin County commissioners demonstrated that vividly earlier this week by asking the U.S. Forest Service to shut down drilling in the massive White River National Forest as oil and gas leases expire.
According to the Aspen Times, Pitkin County – a home-rule county with five commissioners as opposed to the standard three-member board – unanimously signed and fired off a letter to the federal administrators of the 2.3-million-acre forest asking for greater emphasis on tourism and outdoor recreation.
“Given the significant amount of oil and gas that has been produced on the Western Slope over the last 15 years, we request that consideration be given to analysis of the socio-economic and resource benefits of administratively closing lands to future leasing,” the letter read.
“The undeveloped public lands on the White River National Forest provide visitors and residents with extraordinary opportunities for experiencing the natural environment, and are central to our economy.”
The Thompson Creek Divide area of the county near Carbondale has significant natural gas resources, but grassroots environmental groups have been organizing to prevent drilling in that area, which is a major outdoor recreation destination for state and local residents.
The Pitkin County commissioners are set to take up a new set of oil and gas drilling regulations next week.