Thursday, December 22nd 2016
Hello Loyal Member and Guardian of the Upper Rio Grande!
As Betty Davis said in the 1950 movie classic, All about Eve,” fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night (ride)…” 2017 will challenge many of our hard won victories and policies, we have to stay vigilant!
Going from our role in stopping oil and gas plays and large-scale developments surrounding the San Luis Valley, to twenty-year forest planning, to solid waste management clean-ups, and on to a potential BLM National Monument expansion into Conejos County --- we have been a critical voice, making recommendations and finding solutions.
Please continue to support our essential work that makes a fundamental difference in protecting the wild places of southern Colorado. It’s easy --- use the business reply envelope or go to www.slvec.org and click Donate!
ü Time to celebrate, Oil and Gas exploration discontinued in the SLV… for now
A decade of oil and gas speculation had finally come to an end, fueled by The Energy Act of 2006. SLVEC was there to respond to every oil and gas play in our region by galvanizing public opinion, providing comment, and filing lawsuits. We recently saw an end to the BLM oil and gas leasing this past year near Del Norte along San Francisco Creek, a tributary to the Rio Grande.
As you may recall, the Ecosystem Council filed a lawsuit in 2014, challenging the BLM Record of Decision (ROD), allowing Hughes, a wildcat exploration company, to drill. As part of the settlement agreement reached earlier this year, the company has agreed with BLM and SLVEC that they have to go back to the beginning of the nomination process to pursue further leasing. The leasing process has changed considerably since 2006, placing more accountability on industry to justify leasing in particular areas.
All this hard work to protect the SLV may come to an end with the new Presidential-elect cabinet members transitioning into key positions, oil and gas development being on the top of their list.
As of 2016, there is still no oil and gas production within the San Luis Valley or Upper Rio Grande.
Let’s keep pushing for solar and other forms of renewable energy!
Critical Actions Needing Long-term Solutions
ü Village at Wolf Creek (VWC)
SLVEC and Friends of Wolf Creek partners continue to wrangle with the Forest Service to stop the large-scale high altitude resort proposed for Wolf Creek Pass. We filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court and signed a settlement agreement to ensure that no ground disturbing activity occur until we have our day in court. Our attorneys have combed through 80,000 pages of Forest Service documents finally obtained after two years of filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests ordered by a Federal Judge to be released earlier this year.
An Administrative Record (our legal research and arguments) were submitted in late September, incorporating the FOIA documents above. A Declaration was also submitted into the record on behalf of SLVEC and Friends of Wolf Creek. The Forest Service and Intervenors LMJV (Leavell McCombs Joint Venture) have responded to our claims November 30th, basically dismissing our concerns. Go to www.slvec.org, Wolf Creek Project to review posted legal documents related to this case. We will have until the end of January 2017, to respond to Forest Service/LMJV challenges. Federal District Court will likely make a decision sometime next spring or early summer.
Resource planning efforts
ü Rio Grande National Forest Management Plan
The Rio Grande National Forest is now revising their twenty year Management Plan under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Scoping process started this past September. We are recommending five (SIA’s) Special Interest Areas (Ex: Chama Basin Watershed and Mt. Blanca); and 18 expanded Wilderness areas (Ex: Sangres-Cotton Creek to Crestone and Snowshoe Mtn, adjacent to Weminuche). This will be included in a Conservation Alternative that SLVEC and team (The Wilderness Society, Defenders of Wildlife, Rocky Mountain Wild, Quiet Use Coalition and Rocky Smith) have worked on for the past two years, compiling data and ground-truthing to make the most accurate recommendations that avoid conflicting uses. Go to www.slvec.org for details.
The Conservation Alternative prioritizes locations with certain land values including Lands with Wilderness Characteristics and Top Tier Roadless Areas in order to protect the headwaters and watersheds. It also supports inter-agency cooperation and continuity of land designation with neighboring BLM and adjacent forests.
ü Potential National Monument Designation in southern San Luis Valley
A presidential proclamation creating the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in Northern New Mexico (242,555 acres) was signed by President Obama in 2013. This proclamation provides protection along the Rio Grande through the Antiquities Act. An effort is now underway to further expand the monument protection into southern Colorado on approximately 64,000 acres of BLM lands in Conejos County, including a section along the Rio Grande.
Public support is being garnered locally, regionally, and nationally, with the leadership of Conejos Clean Water (CCW) to enable this expansion to move forward. We have already obtained expressed commitment to support this initiative and create the necessary momentum for legislative introduction, since the Antiquities Act of 1906, passed under President Theodore Roosevelt, will most likely be under fire with the incoming Administration.
ü Solid Waste Management -- Illegal dumping and recycling, encourage Regional Planning!
SLVEC continues to work with the US Department of Agriculture, CO Dept of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE), Conejos County Clean Water (CCCW), and SLV Counties to build capacity and develop a Solid Waste Management regime that redirects illegal dumping off public and private lands by developing a ten year Regional Plan for recycling and solid waste reduction.
SLVEC has been working in Alamosa and Saguache Counties in 2016. Our community group effort picked up 7.5 tons of waste scattered over 70 acres in Alamosa County, right outside city limits.
Saguache County is making some big decisions regarding the county landfill. SLVEC and partners are providing a rate study and cost analysis regarding future management options for the landfill.
Wilderness/Forest Stewardship anyone?
Please renew your membership at this time.
Thanks for your belief in our work. Donating is easy. Go to www.slvec.org or use our convenient envelope.
Yes; feel free to use a stamp!
Christine Canaly, Director
PS. Daily Updates available on SLVEC website www.slvec.org and Facebook