Upcoming oil, gas meeting promotes a biased agenda

To the Editor:

I would like to take this opportunity to inform your readers of an upcoming seminar taking place in Craig from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at The Center of Craig.

This seminar is entitled "Our Land, Our Rights."

The seminar is to inform the general public of the issues concerning oil and gas development on public and private lands. This event is advertised as a "A Community Forum on the Balanced Future of Energy Development in Northwest Colorado ..."

In premise, this forum would provide an excellent opportunity for landowners, energy industry officials and concerned citizens to exchange knowledge and information. Clearly, landowner rights and the opportunity for energy development are pivotal. Environmental impacts, socio-economic impacts and the relationship the energy industry and local governments maintain influence us all. Here is an excellent opportunity for all interested parties to voice an opinion.

Unfortunately, this doesn't appear to be the case.

The Western Colorado Congress, Colorado Wilderness Network, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society, Colorado Mountain Club, National Association of Royalty Owners and New Belgian Brewery, sponsor this forum. These organizations are dedicated to the environmental cause.

Don't get me wrong, environmental stewardship is important and should not be taken for granted. However, impacting a local economy by promoting an environmental agenda that is geared to limit or even to abolish responsible energy development is ludicrous.

Craig and Moffat County strongly depend upon energy development and the tax dollars that are generated. The jobs that are available to local residents, money spent by companies and their employees in our local businesses all help to create a standard of living that all of us can appreciate. The sponsors of this event claim they want to present an informative agenda that will aid in policy making. The discouraging part is the agenda itself. The lists of issues that will be presented are valid. As a landowner, I want to know my rights as much as anyone does, but the agenda is very "pro-wilderness" or"pro-environment."

It would only be fair if an unbiased opinion is presented. This is not the case.

As a matter of fact, Moffat County Board of Commissioners was not notified of this event until I discovered it. I brought it to the attention of the commissioners and the Moffat County Natural Resources Department on Oct. 18.

What really struck me as odd was the fact the Meeker Chamber of Commerce was a sponsor. After notifying the mayor of Meeker, and his subsequent telephone calls, it became apparent that the chamber was misled (the chamber is no longer a sponsor to this event).

Several speakers that were invited to attend indicated that they were misled. Those I spoke to said they were unaware of the venue and intent of this forum. Western Colorado Congress and their associate sponsors claim that this is not the case. I believe it is an attempt by these groups to hold this forum in Craig, advertise just enough to claim its validity and then present this "pro-environment," biased forum in the hopes that only a select few would attend as audience. The sponsors then can state there was little if any interest in these issues and the proposed wilderness in Moffat County should go forward with little regard as to the public opinion.

So, what can we do? ATTEND! Don't let these individuals get away with this action. Be there and be vocal. Tell them that responsible energy development is possible and that limiting the economic development options to the county will have substantial repercussions and that the proposed wilderness in Moffat County takes away from our economic, social and recreational opportunities.

Wilderness in essence is a form of no management. Why should the Vermillion Basin, Little Yampa Canyon, Cross Mountain and all of the other targeted sites be tied in a Wilderness designation? These areas are our backyards. Many of us grew up enjoying the recreational opportunities and uniqueness of these places.

They also provide many of us a livelyhood that we couldn't get anywhere else. Are you willing to lose that by not voicing your concerns?

I encourage you to attend. Let us speak up and tell these groups that we, the local residents, are more able to decide what is best for our community than they are.

I also encourage you to visit the Web sites of the sponsors. Look and see who backs them. It will surprise you how many businesses that we frequent and products that we use are sponsors of these and other environmental groups. It certainly opened my eyes.

Being informed is important when dealing with these complex issues. By attending, you can help the county government best cater to your wishes. Let's not sit idly by and go uniformed. I will be there. I hope you will too.

Edward T. Winters,

Craig

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