Rick Hammel and the Friends of Northwest Colorado: Governor, senator right to fly over basin

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To the editor:

Concerning the July 17, 2007, article entitled: "Oil, gas development in Moffat County in question" by Dan Olsen, we find that Gov. (Bill) Ritter and Sen. (Ken) Salazar acted appropriately when they flew, to view for themselves, the controversial Vermillion Basin.

Ed Winters was incorrect when he was quoted about the Land Use Board studying oil and gas development for years. A two-year study hardly constitutes "studying for years."

Also, the BLM does not have a plan in place for oil and gas development.

They do have an outdated plan that is in the process of being revised, but the revised plan is only in draft form.

We also wonder if the Board of County Commissioners have ever heard of politics? Both Sen. Salazar and Gov. Ritter are Democrats and have a different political agenda than the Republican commissioners. Protecting the environment is part of the Democrat political agenda. The commissioners are not used to being opposed in their decisions. We feel that this tour was a dose of reality for the commissioners and they don't like it.

Energy development in Vermillion Basin is not going to be a cakewalk for development, even if the BLM approves development. It is held in high regard by the environmental community. If the BLM approves development, it will certainly be challenged in federal court. Will the commissioners take part in a lawsuit? We certainly hope not. Unless they are using personal funds, we, the taxpayers of Moffat County will be footing the bill.

The July 18, 2007, edition of the Craig Daily Press carried the letter to Gov. Ritter that the Board of County Commissioners wrote. If we were Gov. Ritter, we would be insulted by the cheap and childish manner in which the letter was written.

As one reads the letter, one would assume that Moffat County has jurisdiction over all of lands within the county. It does not. That jurisdiction remains solely with the BLM.

DNR Director Harris Sherman is correct in not supporting the cooperating agencies (agencies outside of the BLM can be federal, state or local entities) agreement for the draft BLM resource management plan. In our view, there was far too much land disturbance proposed in the cooperating agencies version of development in the Vermillion Basin. This disturbance would have impacted many wildlife species, including sage grouse, mule deer and elk, as well as the Little Snake Resource Area's valuable known and unknown cultural and historic resources.

It is DNR's (and DOW's) responsibility to manage and protect wildlife species on the ground. In our view, the former state of Colorado administration was derelict in its duty in performing adequate protections for the wildlife in Colorado. It is unfortunate that the commissioners do not understand this.

Claiming that Moffat County's proposal is a community proposal is disingenuous.

We were involved with the Northwest Colorado Stewardship (NWCOS) process.

In no way was a consensus or community proposal reached.

Vermillion Basin has been determined to have wilderness qualities by the BLM. To develop this area for oil and gas extraction is, in our view, unnecessary. Moreover, it is unknown what the potential is within the Basin, as no exploration has occurred. There are new drilling technologies available that would permit drilling from outside the Basin that would result in no impact to the Basin. The Commissioners do not acknowledge that the new technologies are available, but are being "left legless in a ditch."

Rick Hammel and the Friends of Northwest Colorado

Editor's note: The July 18 Craig Daily Press article paraphrased the letter as part of the county commissioners weekly meeting. The full letter appears online at www.craigdailypress.com.

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