Fracking the North Fork Valley: Opponents exult as BLM defers drilling

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Yesterday the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced that it would remove 22 proposed oil and gas parcels in the scenic North Fork Valley from a summer lease sale, opting instead to "conduct additional analysis...based on public input." And the public that's been deluging the BLM with input -- objections, mostly, to the drilling threat -- is whooping it up.

As we reported late last year, the prospect of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," impacts in the North Fork Valley -- an area known for organic farms, long-established ranching operations and a booming recreation economy -- touched off a widespread opposition campaign, particularly in Paonia, a Western Slope hotbed of environmental activists and the home of High Country News.

The well-coordinated campaign evidently convinced BLM officials the time wasn't ripe for pushing oil and gas exploration on up to 30,000 acres of federal land in the area. As noted on the campaign's Facebook page, the decision is a deferral, not an outright ban on drilling. But the tabling of the proposal gives locals time to lobby for more environmental protections, and that's prompted a celebratory mood.

Or, as one far-flung crusader put it: "it's 3 a.m. in minneapolis but I want to run out in the street and scream for joy."

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Fracking: Gas industry pours $747 million into lobbying and Congress."

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