Action Alert: Industrialization of the Upper North Fork Valley

 

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Two Bucks this spring in the North Fork

On July 6, 2016 the BLM Uncompahgre Field Office (UFO) in Montrose released its long-anticipated Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Bull Mountain Unit Master Development Plan (MDP). The BLM’s preferred alternative proposes 146 natural gas wells on 33 pads, 24 miles of new pipeline, 16 miles of new road construction, and four new wastewater disposal wells across 19,670 acres in the Upper North Fork of Gunnison County. If the MDP is approved, the FEIS will provide an “umbrella” analysis to which subsequent federal actions proposed within the Unit would be tiered for additional NEPA compliance. Click here to read the FEIS.

Simply put, the size and intensity of this proposal would be a game changer for the North Fork, and not for the better.

Since 2008 HCCA has been challenging this proposal, and have been successful in slowing this project down considerably. With our conservation partners in Delta County, HCCA was able to send BLM and SG Interests back to the drawing board after the release in 2012 of an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the project, a document wholly incapable of analyzing and disclosing the proposal’s environmental impacts. The BLM responded to community, legal and policy pressure by agreeing to analyze the proposal in an EIS, which has taken the last four years to accomplish. The recently released FEIS gives a more thorough insight into the direct, indirect and cumulative effects associated with this large-scale industrial development, and also contains additional mitigation measures to address pollution and wildlife impacts, but nevertheless is flawed and incomplete. The fight is not over, and HCCA is calling on all our members to let the BLM know that you don’t support the industrialization of Gunnison County’s Upper North Fork Valley.

What’s the Problem?

  • The level of development proposed for the Bull Mountain Unit dwarfs current natural gas activity in Gunnison County.
  • While the majority of the Unit consists of private surface land, almost 13,000 acres overlay federal (i.e. public) mineral estate. There are also BLM-administered surface lands.
  • The proposal includes a wildlife habitat plan submitted by SG Interests, but it is voluntary and has not been approved by Colorado Parks and Wildlife because of “potential residual impacts to elk.”
  • The proposal would have significant impacts to elk and mule deer. High quality winter habitat would be reduced by 40% during the production phase of development.
  • Greenback cutthroat trout, a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, occupy two drainages in the Bull Mountain Unit.
  • The BLM has determined that the project may affect, and is likely to adversely affect, four endangered fish species found downstream. These are the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, humpback chub and bonytail chub.

What Action Can You Take?
There is a 30-day public review and protest period for the FEIS that closes on August 7th. This 30-day period is not a formal public comment period, but any comments received may be addressed in the Record of Decision. HCCA strongly encourages you to submit a personalized protest letter to the following recipients, expressing your opposition to the proposal and support for healthy wildlife, waters, air and public lands:

Sally Jewell
Secretary
US Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240

Neil Kornze
Director
Bureau of Land Management
1849 C Street NW, Rm. 5665
Washington DC 20240

Ruth Welch
State Director
Bureau of Land Management
2850 Youngfield Street
Lakewood, Colorado 80215-7093
rwelch@blm.gov

Barb Sharrow
District Manager (Acting)
Bureau of Land Management
2465 South Townsend Avenue
Montrose, Colorado 81401
bsharrow@blm.gov

Dana Wilson
Uncompahgre Field Office Manager (Acting)
Bureau of Land Management
2465 South Townsend Avenue
Montrose, Colorado 81401
dmwilson@blm.gov

Gina Jones
Bureau of Land Management
Uncompahgre Field Office
2465 South Townsend Ave.
Montrose, CO 81401
bullmteis@blm.gov