Aspen Skiing Co. workers give $45,000 in gas fight
A foundation run by and largely funded by Aspen Skiing Co. employees added to a trend Monday of helping bankroll groups striving for greater regulation of oil and gas development.
The Environment Foundation gave a $20,000 grant to Thompson Divide Coalition for its efforts to prevent gas exploration and production in roadless lands west of Carbondale. The coalition is trying to buy existing leases from gas producers and retire them.
Wilderness Workshop received $15,000 to help fund its role as a watchdog on the leasing process and to ensure public input is accounted for by the Bureau of Land Management when leasing public lands.
Western Environmental Law Center received $10,000 to help residents of the North Fork Valley, which includes the Paonia area, with legal aid. The grant will “provide the legal advice for North Fork Valley residents working to ensure the agricultural values of the valley are not overrun by short term energy extraction efforts,” the Environment Foundation said in a statement.
In addition to the grants for the activism efforts, the Environment Foundation gave $10,000 to High Country News, a Paonia-based nonprofit newspaper that covers issues of the West, to report on energy development in Western Colorado.
An analysis of the Environment Foundation’s grant awards indicates about $372,500 has been awarded in the past 13 years to groups pressing for greater regulation of the oil-and-gas industry. Environment Foundation Executive Director Matt Hamilton said the impacts of oil and gas development are important issues to the foundation’s members.
Skico employees serve on the foundation’s board of directors and choose the grant recipients. The foundation is funded by voluntary contributions by Skico employees and customers. Additional contributions are made by the Aspen Community Foundation, the Aspen Skiing Company Family Fund and two of Skico’s corporate sponsors, Coca-Cola and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.
The foundation has given $2.5 million in grants to 425 projects or organizations since it was created in 1998. The foundation awarded $114,029 in grants on Monday.
Hamilton said Wilderness Workshop and Thompson Divide Coalition, like all grant recipients, have to show accountability to receive funding.
“We require they submit final reports to show how the funds are used,” Hamilton said. Both groups have demonstrated that they broaden the public discourse by getting people to attend public meeting on gas issues, they submit public comments themselves in the federal review process and they spur media coverage of their efforts, he said. The groups also have used the grants to leverage additional funds.
“This generous support will allow us to continue our all hands-on-deck response to protect our backcountry and associated sustainable uses that support our local economy against the boom-bust cycles of the gas industry,” Wilderness Workshop Executive Director Sloan Shoemaker said in a statement.
Wilderness Workshop’s oil and gas defense efforts have received $34,000 from the Environment Foundation in the past three years. Thompson Divide Coalition has received $29,000 from the foundation in the past 3½ years, according to the foundation’s website.
Not all of the grants in the spring 2014 cycle were related to oil and gas activism. Another $25,000 was awarded to support the maintenance of the trail and open space infrastructure in some way, Hamilton noted.
Following are the other grant recipients:
• Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, $7,500, general operating support
• Aspen Valley Land Trust, $7,000, aerial imagery monitoring program
• Basalt Thrift Store, $5,100, efficient lighting upgrades
• Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, $5,024, Elk Mountains Fourteeners Trail Maintenance and Data Collection Project
• Fat City Farmers, $8,000, supporting community and school garden efforts throughout the Roaring Fork Valley
• Mount Sopris Nordic Council, $3,405, Mount Sopris Nordic Council, 2014 Spring Gulch Trail System Enhancement
• Roaring Fork Conservancy, $4,000, general operations support
• Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, $10,000, trail and restoration projects for 2014
• The Buddy Program, $5,000, Experiential Programs and Outdoor Leadership
• We-Cycle, $4,000, bike share ambassador program.
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International visitors have traditionally accounted for 10 to 20 percent of Aspen Skiing Co.’s skier visits in recent past seasons. Travel fears and restrictions tied to the coronavirus are expected to wipe out most of that market for 2020-21.