North Fork Mancos Master Development Plan Update
Recently, our friends at Citizens for a Healthy Community, High Country Conservation Advocates, Wilderness Workshop, Center for Biological Diversity, Western Environmental Law Center, and WildEarth Guardians won a lawsuit which vacated the North Fork Mancos Master Development Plan, which would have approved 35 new fracking wells in the North Fork Valley. This is big for the North Fork! And while litigation can provide victories like this, it can only happen after the community has raised its voice and tried to be heard at every step of the process providing input and getting decision makers to listen (or not - that’s when we turn to litigation).
Lizzy Potter, an attorney with Advocates for the West, provided the keynote address to WSCC’s annual meeting earlier this year and spoke very succinctly about this. She talked in very specific terms about how public support and public pressure can influence – and change – public lands management, and why litigation alone cannot win the battles. A video recording of her presentation is available at this link: https://youtu.be/Rs_zcbRhYio
Ms. Potter is currently representing WSCC (and Wilderness Workshop and The Wilderness Society) in our suit against the BLM Uncompahgre Field Office’s Resource Management Plan.
Dark Skies in Colorado
Earlier this month, Governor Polis signed House Bill 22-1382 – Support Dark-sky Designation and Promotion in Colorado – which provides funding for the IDA Colorado Chapter to increase our ability to assist International Dark Sky Places in their certification efforts. The bill also allocates funds for new dark sky places to join in tourism promotion projects. WSCC has been working with partners at the Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Canyons Association to get Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area certified as a Dark Sky Park. We will be sending volunteers out at the end of June to collect dark sky readings in spots throughout the Conservation Area. If this sounds interesting to you, please send a note to Ben Katz, Public Lands Program Director at firstname.lastname@example.org
State Legislative Update
WSCC staff and volunteers have been hard at work advocating for the North Fork in statewide legislative bills. We have been tracking a few over the course of the session and have some updates for our members as the session has come to a close.
This bill creates six statewide toxics monitors and allows CDPHE to monitor for more air toxics than the EPA currently regulates, but only includes five toxics next year and every five years the air quality control commission can consider adding more.
This bill creates a separate entity to manage $10 million a year in state funds for plugging, reclaiming and remediating orphaned wells, and allows the state to use those funds to qualify for an additional $25 million this year in federal funds.
This bill would require state agencies to collect industry-wide and random-sample data for the 2023 calendar year. Using this data, the State Auditor will compare enforcement actions and reporting information submitted to the different departments to more thoroughly evaluate our severance tax reporting system and make recommendations to the Colorado legislature.
This bill would have expanded opportunities for Colorado farmers and ranchers to pursue “agrivoltaics” — developments that combine solar energy generation and agricultural production — or participate in carbon-offset programs, and added additional statewide emissions reductions goals to our current statewide climate plan. A Republican filibuster prevented the bill from advancing. We hope to see this bill again next year.
This bill will create the Colorado Wildlife Safe Passages Fund to invest $5 million in measures to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and reconnect habitat fragmented by roads.
Gunnison Outdoor Resources Protection Act Discussion Draft Introduced
Earlier this month, Senator Bennet released the Gunnison Outdoor Resources Protection Act, a bill created by a working group in Gunnison County designed to create special management areas and designate Wilderness areas. With a large portion of the North Fork watershed residing in Gunnison County, this bill has the potential to protect large swaths of our upper watershed. Many of the North Fork areas remain “in discussion,” meaning Sen. Bennet is waiting to hear from you on whether or not they should be included in the final legislation. Stay tuned as WSCC will release more information and action alerts for ways you can participate in the bill.