Letter: A tale of two valleys

The connections between the Roaring Fork and North Fork valleys run deep. People travel between the two valleys to see friends, climb mountains, eat locally produced food and build businesses. Travel over McClure Pass has likely gone on for millennia, and we all probably know friends who have lived and put down roots in both valleys. Many Roaring Fork residents get locally grown produce from the farms in the North Fork, while ranchers from the Roaring Fork sell their meat to those on the other side of McClure, as well. We share more than just a connected landscape. We also share a community and economy.

Earlier this year, our shared congressman, Scott Tipton, floated a draft bill largely written by an oil-and-gas company, SG Interests, that would exchange roughly 30,000 acres of gas leases in the Thompson Divide west of Carbondale for new leases in the Hubbard and Mule Park area north of Paonia. For nearly a decade, people in the Roaring Fork Valley have been working to protect Thompson Divide from gas development. For nearly as long, people in the North Fork have been fighting gas leasing near their communities and dealing with the impacts of existing gas production in the upper reaches of their watershed.

While Tipton’s bill would get rid of the majority of the existing gas leases in Thompson Divide, it contains zero protections from future leasing for either Thompson Divide or key lands within the North Fork watershed, something people on both sides of McClure have been consistently and strongly asking Congress to help with for years. Perhaps most significantly, the bill would provide no protections whatsoever from new impacts on the lands, waters and air of the North Fork Valley; large portions of the residents of the North Fork don’t want to see that happen. Similarly, the Wilderness Workshop and residents of the Roaring Fork have consistently drawn the line, in efforts to protect Thompson Divide, at passing our problem off to anyone else.

With all this in mind, it’s clear that Tipton’s lease-exchange bill is bad for both our communities. It’s not something either of our organizations can support. We’ve got too much in common, and we care too much about the people and lands on both sides of McClure Pass.

Will Roush

Conservation director, Wilderness Workshop

Alex Johnson

Director, West Slope Conservation Center