Our letters section and your opportunity to weigh in and be heard. Send us your thoughts and profundities. You can contact us here.

Hungry for a little vision

Dear Editors,

We respect and support the city’s desire to have community participation in the Comprehensive Plan update. However, we left the Nov. 17 workshops feeling disappointed with the process and hungry for a guiding vision.

We applaud the city’s efforts to get input on what kind of growth-management policy to pursue. They got our reactions to a great list of issues: protecting the Animas River, protecting hillsides, providing affordable/attainable housing, providing diverse housing choices, mitigating the costs of growth, managing traffic congestion, expanding mobility options, expanding job opportunities, pursuing historic preservation, retaining a vital downtown, and protecting neighborhoods. Our feedback can guide them in making trade-offs. However, this list of problems is not a vision for 2030. The Sonoran report also reads more like priority issues rather than a vision.

We are hungry for a long-term vision that will guide the city and county planning departments in setting priorities for expenditures, one that will help elected officials decide what initiatives to approve or not. Our local communities are economically linked and socially intertwined. We think the vision needs to go beyond Durango itself. We would like to see a vision that goes beyond sustainability as well – envisioning economic self-sufficiency and a quality of life for the area which will inspire future generations to create restorative communities that preserve the natural environment.

Over the next few months, we will use an “Appreciative Inquiry” process to solicit a wide cross-section of individual aspirations for our community. We will train people to convene conversations with every stakeholder group, especially people who cannot attend the city’s meetings. We will turn the mosaic of hopes into a grassroots vision, and offer that to the city

and county for their consideration. We are not trying to hijack the city’s planning process; rather we hope these steps will provide broad-based input to inform and perhaps guide the processes already in place.

Please call Katherine (247-1181) or Kathy (385-1965)

or e-mail Katherine@peakinsight.com if you want to get involved. Or just come to the Dec. 15 organizing meeting (6:30-9 p.m.) at the Rec Center.

– Katherine Holt and Kathy Turner, via e-mail


Give a boost to the Bureau of Land Management

To the Editors:

Environmental inspections by the BLM are the primary way the agency makes sure oil and gas companies are following environmental laws and lease guidelines on public lands. These inspections include regular monitoring of air, water, soils, fish and wildlife to ensure that public lands are being managed with care.

A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report indicated that America’s public lands are threatened by the BLM’s lack of environmental inspections of oil and gas activities. Many Western BLM offices, it discovered, have been compromising their normal day-to-day operations in order to process record numbers of oil and gas permits. In one example, the GAO examined the BLM office in Vernal, Utah, where oil and gas permitting activity is high. What they found is astonishing. The BLM only completed its annual environmental inspections once in the last six years. However, during this time the Vernal office experienced a 400 percent increase in oil and gas permitting activity. This is because oil and gas companies, with White House and Congressional support, have pressured the BLM to concentrate on the permitting process for oil and gas as a top priority, at the expense of environmental oversight. The resulting lack of oversight by the BLM combined with large increases in permitting activity spells disaster for our public lands.

To correct this problem, the GAO recommended that a fee structure be implemented to tackle this issue. A $4,000 fee was suggested as the price tag to handle applications for oil and natural gas. The BLM estimated that the $23.5 million it could have raised each year from these fees would have helped the agency to continue its normal stewardship activities. Unfortunately, the proposed regulations and new permit fees that oil and gas companies would have been required to pay were successfully defeated in the 2005 Energy Bill, which gave the powerful oil and gas lobby many things that it wanted.

Included in the Energy Bill is an oil and gas exemption to the Safe Drinking Water Act for hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing is where dangerous chemicals and sand are injected under extreme pressure into the ground to fracture rock formations. These chemicals can contaminate underground water supplies. To make matters worse, the Energy Bill exempts oil and gas drilling from the Clean Water Act, which requires storm-water discharge containment. The Energy Bill also shortens the amount of time the understaffed BLM has in reviewing new permit applications for oil and gas leases. This undermines the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA requires that an environmental and public review process be completed before a project can be approved on public lands.

The BLM needs time and personnel to meet its NEPA responsibilities, and the people of our nation need time to voice their opinion on public land issues. With the passage of the 2005 Energy Bill, time and funding to accomplish NEPA requirements is diminished and the BLM will manage vast parts of public land primarily for the interests of oil and gas companies. This is wrong. Our public lands should be fairly managed not only for oil and gas companies, but also for rangeland, recreation, preservation of wildlife habitat, and open space. Stewardship is just as important as energy development.

– Sincerely and With Increasing Concern, Tyler Richardson, via e-mail


In this week's issue...

July 18, 2024
Rebuilding Craig

Agreement helps carve a path forward for town long dependent on coal

July 11, 2024
Reining it in

Amid rise in complaints, City embarks on renewed campaign to educate dog owners

July 11, 2024
Rolling retro

Vintage bikes get their day to shine with upcoming swap and sale