We took to the streets to answer this question and see what else Coloradans know — or ought to know — about methane.

CARBONDALE, COLORADO – Today, Conservation Colorado, the state’s largest statewide environmental advocacy organization, announced the opening of a new Roaring Fork Valley office based in Carbondale to serve this ecologically unique and politically important region.

Central Mountains Organizer Erin Riccio released the following statement in response:

“As Conservation Colorado’s organizer in the region, I’m excited to bring the voices of my neighbors along the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys to the State Capitol and other decision-making spaces. Together we can fight climate change, protect our lands, waterways, and wildlife, and stand up against powerful interests.

“Calling this area ‘home’ is a dream come true.”

The Roaring Fork Valley is already a conservation leader, including:

  • The only municipalities in our state — Glenwood Springs and Aspen — to be powered 100 percent by renewable energy;
  • Cancellation of 18 oil and gas leases along the Thompson Divide, an important landscape renowned for its hunting and recreation opportunities;
  • Creation of the Crystal River Management Plan to better manage water usage and enhance the ecological integrity of the river; and,
  • A goal to electrify one-third of the Roaring Fork Valley Transportation Authority’s bus fleet.

“I’m thrilled that Conservation Colorado has established a permanent presence in the Roaring Fork Valley,” said Jacque Whitsitt, the Mayor of Basalt. “Their focus on state and national policy will be a great asset to the robust conservation community that already calls this area home.”

Riccio, a fluent Spanish-speaker, will work with local citizens and leaders to capitalize on this progress, including:

  • Conserving our public lands that support a high quality of life and booming outdoor economy by passing the CORE Act;
  • Protecting our unique communities from the health and safety hazards of oil and gas activities through continued engagement with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission;
  • Addressing climate change by implementing the Climate Action Plan to reduce statewide carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050; and,
  • Ensuring our rivers are healthy and flowing with full funding of the Colorado Water Plan.

The Central Mountains Region is rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. And the issues it faces are as diverse as the landscapes it spans.

Application for school districts to apply for funding for clean buses opens October 7th

DENVER – Today, Conservation Colorado, the state’s largest statewide environmental advocacy organization, released Cleaner Air for Denver with Electric School Buses. The new report, by VEIC Research, finds that replacing diesel buses with electric buses will result in more than $100,000 in savings on maintenance and fuel costs and cut harmful pollution.

The report arrives as Colorado school districts prepare to apply to this round of the Regional Air Quality Council’s “Alt Fuels Colorado” Program — which is funded through the multi-million dollar VW settlement with Colorado — opens on October 7th and runs through November 8th. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is administering over $68.7 million in funds as part of the settlement, including $18 million to replace and scrap diesel school buses. 

“Every day, kids across across the state are exposed to harmful air pollution from diesel bus fumes,” said Juan Gallegos, Protégete Program Director for Conservation Colorado. “This new report shows that electric school buses will deliver cleaner air to our communities today as we move toward clean, renewable electricity. And in an era of tight budgets, our leaders will be thrilled to know that they can deliver these benefits while saving money. This report is a call to action for school districts, especially those with majority Latinx students, to take action now and apply for the VW settlement money to replace their bus fleets.” 

Specifically, the report finds that:

  • With each bus replaced, DPS will see a total of $112,353 in fuel and maintenance savings over the lifetime of the vehicle. 
  • And for each bus replaced, there are $13,044 in societal benefits from the reduced air pollution. 
  • Electric buses produce less nitrous oxide (NOx) and greenhouse gases (GHG) than new and existing diesel buses, even when including upstream impacts from electricity generation and diesel refining.
  • Denver’s grid is getting cleaner so electric buses will offer even cleaner operation in the future.

Denver Public Schools (DPS) is the largest and most populated school district in the state and is a leader in sustainability practices. DPS is one of the few school districts that has a climate change plan.

“We support the efforts of the DPS Sustainability Office and Conservation Colorado, and value the findings from this report,” said Albert Samora, Executive Director of DPS Transportation Services. “Our team has begun to look at alternatives to diesel buses and will incorporate the findings of this report as we progress with our analysis and planning for the future.”

“VEIC was thrilled to work with Denver Public Schools, with the support of Conservation Colorado, to identify a pathway toward a cleaner bus fleet,” said Jennifer Wallace-Brodeur, Director of Clean Transportation at VEIC. “Investing VW Settlement dollars in Denver’s school transportation will yield long term benefits for children’s health and we’re excited to see Denver advancing this important work.” 

“Every time we get on a diesel school bus we’re putting our health in jeopardy,” said Joyce Lopis, a DPS student attending Vista Academy High School in Green Valley Ranch. “Transitioning buses to electric will help reduce hospital bills, absent days, and air pollution. We have the right to breathe clean air without putting our health in danger.”

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Incredible wildlands are in jeopardy of being developed for oil, gas, and mineral extraction by the BLM – the very federal agency who manages them.

With a need to act on climate, it’s more important than ever that all of us practice civic engagement — at the local, state, and federal levels.

If you love our public lands like I do, I hope you will tell the Trump Administration they don’t own these lands, we have entrusted them with the management of OUR lands.

Just last week, Colorado’s AQCC voted to adopt a Zero Emission Vehicle standard which will bring help Coloradans breathe easier and bring more EVs to CO. 

Through education, leadership development, and skill-building, Protégete is working to fight injustices by supporting youth in becoming the next generation of community advocates and environmental leaders. 

DENVER – Today the Bureau of Land Management announced a plan allowing the gas drilling industry to dominate Colorado’s idyllic North Fork Valley with new oil and gas leasing. The plan failed to adopt a community-supported proposal that was under consideration by the agency to protect the water supply, wildlife and scenery of the North Fork Valley.

Previously, the North Fork Valley community has fought back three previous attempts to lease public lands for drilling close to the towns of Crawford, Hotchkiss and Paonia while the agency worked to complete its land use plan. The final resource management plan for the area will guide management of public lands for decades to come.

The Western Slope Conservation Center issued the following statement from Patrick Dooling, Executive Director:

“We are extremely disappointed that the BLM is moving forward with a plan that so clearly disrespects the wishes of our community and prioritizes drilling over all other uses here. The push to open our public lands for expanded drilling in Colorado’s premier sustainable farming and agri-tourism region is broadly opposed by local farms, businesses, and residents.

“The BLM’s final plan directly neglects the wishes of local governments, numerous organizations and countless citizens and shows that the current administration continues to prioritize the interests of the oil and gas industry over the public. We have fought back irresponsible drilling leases before and we fight back against this attempt to lock in risk of future drilling for years to come.”

The Wilderness Society issued the following statement from Jim Ramey, Colorado State Director:

“Instead of protecting the clean water supply that allows the North Fork Valley to thrive, the BLM is putting the gas drilling industry first.”

“It’s a shame to see Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a native Coloradan, hand out favors to fossil fuel interests at the expense of local farmers, recreation businesses and the public here in his home state.

Not only does the plan sellout the community in the North Fork Valley by ignoring the locally-grown North Fork Alternative Plan, it also guts protections for critical wildlands across Colorado’s western slope. Places like Dry Creek Basin and Roc Creek – public lands that offer backcountry recreation, scenic views and important wildlife habitat – would be stripped of protections under the Trump administration’s proposed changes to the plan.”

Conservation Colorado issued the following statement from Executive Director Kelly Nordini:

“Today is just one more example of President Trump and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt putting the oil and gas industry ahead of local communities. Instead of helping foster the North Fork Valley’s thriving and growing agriculture and outdoor recreation economy, they are placing these sustainable industries in the crosshairs of an industry that threatens the very clean air, water and climate that helps these local businesses.”

“The Trump administration’s so-called ‘energy dominance’ agenda isn’t just a giveaway of public lands to their polluting industry friends, it mortgages Coloradans’ very future by exacerbating climate impacts instead of avoiding them.”

Why is this so important to western Colorado?

Why is this so important to western Colorado? Oil and gas development is incompatible with a healthy future for the spectacular North Fork Valley of western Colorado. The communities of the North Fork Valley are strongly opposed to oil and gas development, largely due to the negligible economic gains and the significant irreparable damage that could occur from oil and gas activities in the watershed.

  • Clean Water: The North Fork Valley is a hub of organic and traditional agriculture and one of only two federally recognized wine regions in Colorado. Protection of the valley’s water supply relies on protecting the North Fork from source-to-use. Pollution must be prevented from entering this critical water system. For farmers and the agricultural economy, water quantity and quality are both of utmost importance. Organic agriculture, specialty crops, and high-quality hay all depend on abundant water free from contamination.

Surface contamination and spills, which occur regularly in Colorado oil and gas fields, could spread rapidly through the irrigation systems that water the valley. Oil and gas development is well-known to contaminate water supplies, both above and below ground, and to harm water bodies, rivers and source areas. That is a risk too great for operators in the valley, home to Colorado’s highest concentration of organic farms, an agritourism haven, and major headwaters to the Colorado River system.

  • Wildlife: Of particular concern are impacts to mule deer, elk, Canada lynx, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, bald eagle and greenback cutthroat trout. Coupled with the impacts of existing energy development, additional leasing and development directly threaten rare mid-elevation habitat and the wildlife which depends upon it. The state currently does not possess adequate data on elk and mule deer populations in the area of the proposed development, and CPW staff have indicated that recent elk population numbers in the area have been in steep decline over the last few years. The local elk and mule deer are essential to the local economy, not to mention the ecology of our landscapes.

At risk in the final plan are some of the same lands the local community joined together to oppose leasing in 2011 and 2012, and again in late 2018. The initial leasing attempts prompted the BLM to consider a locally grown vision for the North Fork Valley that would keep energy development away from sensitive areas. The BLM agreed to consider the North Fork Alternative Plan in the Uncompahgre Resource Management Plan revision, however, the proposed final plan ignores the local community and undermines the citizens’ vision.

The BLM had been deferring leasing in the North Fork Valley while it revised the Uncompahgre RMP and made a long-term plan for managing the many values of this special landscape, but under Trump administration policies the agency is plowing forward with highly controversial, short-sighted leasing proposals. With its drilling above all other uses strategy for public lands, the Administration is deaf to the voices and vision the local community has worked with the BLM on for years. “Energy dominance” for the purpose of enriching fossil fuel industry executives could well result in farmers, winemakers and ranchers losing their livelihoods.

The North Fork Valley is too wild, too beautiful, and too productive to be sacrificed for oil and gas interests. Efforts to move forward with leasing in the North Fork Valley will continue to be met with strong opposition. The valley has produced energy for our country from public lands for over a century from its coal mines. Now is the time to protect remaining wildlands in the area for future generations to enjoy.

Cover image: North Fork Valley, CO. Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society.