BLM to defer disputed auction for oil, gas leases in tranquil North Fork Valley

The Bureau of Land Management is deferring all parcels associated with the August oil and gas lease sale in the North Fork Valley.

Proposed drilling land next door to Big B's organic apple orchards. (Image: Big B's)
“BLM has opted to conduct additional analysis of the proposed lease parcels based on public input,” the agency said in a press release today.

Reached by telephone this afternoon, Shannon Borders, spokeswoman for the BLM in Montrose, said officials there had no additional comment.

The North Fork Valley is home to one of the highest concentrations of organic farms in Colorado and is one of just two designated wine regions in the state. Wildlife also thrives there.

A delegation of local business owners and residents in the North Fork Valley recently went to Washington, D.C., urging federal officials to withdraw the leases. Protestors also took to the ESPN Winter X Games in Aspen and other highly visible locales.

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 rural economy.

“I am glad to see that the BLM made the right decision,” said Pete Kolbenschlag of Mountain West Strategies in Paonia. “Secretary Salazar’s leasing reforms worked — the agency took a closer look and realized that leasing these parcels was problematic and likely contrary to law and regulation. There will be many celebrations — big and small — in the North Fork Valley tonight. We also owe appreciation to our senators — Michael Bennet and Mark Udall — who helped get a comment extension and who passed along constituent concerns to BLM and others.”

Troy Hooper covers environmental policy for the American Independent News Network. His work has been published in The Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Huffington Post, San Francisco Weekly, Playboy, New York Post, People and dozens of other publications. Hooper has covered the Winter Olympics in Italy, an extreme ski camp in South America and gone behind the scenes with Hunter S. Thompson on election night in 2004. Born and raised in Boulder, Hooper has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California at Santa Barbara.