A win-win for the Wilderness Workshop | AspenTimes.com

A win-win for the Wilderness Workshop

Dear Editor:

Kudos to Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop for being the little engine that could. With modern oil- and gas-drilling technology, and particularly fracking technology, opening up millions of new acres across our nation for fossil-fuel extraction, Wilderness Workshop and its partners have won recent victories to protect two very special areas.

The first victory resulted in contraction of an oil and gas unit from 8,600 acres to 440 acres and the termination of thousands of acres of leases in the Thompson Divide near Carbondale. The leaseholders had been dragging their feet on drilling obligations since 2004. Thanks to the work of Wilderness Workshop, the Bureau of Land Management agreed to enforce its own regulations, and thousands of roadless acres in the western Thompson Divide have a new lease on life.

The second victory may protect the top of the beautiful Roan Plateau above Rifle from drilling. A recent court order requires BLM to reconsider its plan authorizing drilling on the top of the plateau. The Colorado Natural Heritage Program has called the Roan one of the top four places in the state for biological diversity. The other three are protected within the national park system. The Roan provides important summer range for some of the largest herds of elk and deer in our nation and trout streams that contrast sharply with the much drier surrounding areas.

It is important to understand that Wilderness Workshop does not indiscriminately oppose energy development. Vast areas of western Colorado are already developed for oil, gas and coal. According to the Department of the Interior’s public land statistics for 2011, almost a million and a half acres in Colorado are under lease or in “production status” for oil, gas, coal and oil shale. Wilderness Workshop has opposed very few of these developments but has intervened when areas of critical environmental concern were being threatened or air and water quality were in jeopardy. We also reject the notion that fossil-fuel development everywhere is the key to future prosperity. At some point, we need to move beyond the burning of fossil fuels, which have been very beneficial to us in the past but pose an increasing threat to our world’s climate. We need to encourage renewable-energy technologies and energy conservation because if we don’t, we will literally be spending trillions of dollars to defend our coastal communities from rising sea levels.

Andy Wiessner

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Board member, Wilderness Workshop