To the Editor:
I ask the members of this community to remember our way of life when it comes to considering how we address the wildfire-like growth of oil and gas drilling in Moffat County.
The recent Energy Summit at the Holiday Inn of Craig focused mainly on the oil and gas boom. While bringing promises of economic growth, oil and gas extraction also challenges the special way of life we enjoy as hikers, ranchers, hunters and pretty much anyone else who enjoys the outdoors as much as we do. I am disappointed that the Summit did not include our viewpoint to balance those of industry officials.
I would like to bust a few myths that might have resulted from the Summit and our local news coverage.
Myth Buster One: Despite industry-led perceptions to the contrary, our economy does not depend on energy development for its health. We belong to a Western economy traditionally based on responsible land usage.
Independent economic data for the Rocky Mountains suggest that most of our personal income comes not from energy, but from amenities like wildlife and wilderness in our backyard. As we grow our energy industry, we must ensure that even long-term boom does not bust our main economic provider - the environment.
Myth Buster Two: Industry is not going to leave our area if we demand fair payment for their use of our lands. On May 17, the Craig Daily Press ran a headline: "Energy companies predict long stay in Colorado." Don't believe my estimation that oil and gas companies will be here long term, read about it for yourself. Rio Blanco County is already considering an impact use fee, why aren't we doing the same? We can give our public input into regulations drafted by the State Commission revising outdated laws about usage fees. Moffat County should get fair payment and consideration for use of our public lands by private companies.
Myth Buster Three: Vermillion Basin does not have extensive known reserves of oil and gas.
Like industry officials admitted at the Energy Summit, results in Vermillion Basin are hit and miss at best. US geological studies of the area suggest that the basin holds only enough recoverable gas to fuel U.S. energy needs for less than 10 days, and less than eight minutes worth of oil needs. These figures are astounding when we weigh the impact of oil and gas drilling against the preservation of one of the most unique wilderness areas in the West. It is in our best interest to urge the BLM to preserve Vermillion Basin.
As Westerners, it is our tradition to balance economic opportunities with caring for the land itself. It is our unique knowledge of the land and sensible resourcefulness that define our way of life.
This tradition involves an inherent investment in that land's health so that this way of life - our deer, elk, petroglyphs and beautiful canyon vistas - can be enjoyed for generations to come.
Melanie K. Yazzie