Posted on Wed, March 21, 2012 by Slow Food USA
16 Comments | Categories: Policy, Slow Food Chapters in Action, Take Action,
Written by Jim Brett, Slow Food Western Slope (CO) Chapter Leader
On December 7, 2011 (a day that will live in infamy again) western Colorado’s North Fork Valley received an early holiday gift from the Bureau of Land Management’s Uncompaghre Field Office, which announced that 22 parcels of over 30,000 acres will be up for oil and gas lease sale set for August 2012. Looking at the BLM map, we could see that the North Fork Valley is completely surrounded by these parcels.
This Valley is an agricultural gem that embodies Slow Food’s principles of envisioning a world in which all people can eat food that is good for them, good for the planet, and good for those who produce it.
There are over 70 winemakers, farmers, orchardists, ranchers and agricultural businesses in North Fork Valley - all of which depend on good and clean water, air and soil. If oil and gas interests start production on these leases, the very lifeblood of the agricultural producers will be seriously threatened and probably ruined since the parcels include the watersheds of the entire Valley. And just as damaging, air pollution will engulf the Valley. These circumstances are totally unacceptable to us.
As leaders of Slow food Western Slope we believe the North Fork Valley needs to be preserved Because of the high concentration of naturally-grown and organic farms and the resultant rural quality of life that has existed for over 100 years. The growth and persistence of the Valley’s food/wine sector have stimulated growth in agri-tourism, which has sustained the Valley economically during the period of a national economic downturn. We at Slow Food Western Slope believe that if oil and gas interests start production on these leases, the rural quality of life will be lost. The North Fork Valley is a prime example of a working sustainable economy, which would be sacrificed if the land were to change.
The BLM lease sale process includes three 30-day public comment periods. For the first round, the BLM wanted to understand how oil and gas development on the parcels would affect land and water use, recreation, wildlife habitat, etc. Our Slow Food Western Slope chapter joined other local environmental organizations that wanted to mobilize the community to submit comments to the BLM regarding the parcel sale. We collaborated in planning town meetings that would heightened people’s awareness of oil and gas development in the Valley and participated in these meetings to help people write their own BLM letters.
In order to spread the word about our situation to Slow Food constituents in the Rocky Mountain Region, we, along with our Governor, Matt Jones, engaged Slow Food USA to support our quest. The National Office was able to help us send an email campaign, using Slow Food USA’s resources, to our region’s Slow Food members.
The initial response from the Region was tremendous - over 250 people personalized a message template and emailed it to the BLM within a few days. Perhaps because of this overwhelming response, the BLM extended the comment period another 30 days to February 9 and we were able to give even more of our members an opportunity to comment. As a result of both of these efforts, over 500 Slow Food advocates wrote the BLM requesting that the parcels be removed from the sale! It was gratifying to see so many people outside of our vibrant Valley understand the grave situation we face and voice their support to maintain an environment that is good, clean and fair.
Now that first round of comments has been completed, we await the BLM’s issuance of the Environmental Assessment, which will initiate the second round of public comments. The BLM knows that we will be watching intently and you’ll all be hearing from us soon!