Striking a balance to protect landowners and the future of our farms and ranches

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Balance.

It’s a word that a lot folks like to use, but not too many people know what it means.
It’s a word that farmers and ranchers do understand from firsthand experience. Making your living off the land means living in balance with that land.

All too often, we don’t take a balanced approach and put the interests of some industries ahead of Colorado’s farms and ranches. And that is exactly what Colorado BLM was doing to landowners in southwestern Colorado.

Thankfully, La Plata County commissioners stepped up on behalf of farmers and ranchers.

Over strong objections by landowners, sportsmen, the Hickenlooper administration, and park rangers, Colorado BLM has twice put up land for auction in La Plata County to oil and gas companies.

RMFU supports responsible oil and gas development. There is a right way and a wrong way to do things and a right place and a wrong place for where to do them. That’s why the need for understanding balance is so important.

Landowners in western La Plata County live in an area known as the “dry side” where water is scarce. Colorado BLM found in its own analysis that even if oil and gas operators use the best practices in the area, operations are “likely to affect soil and water conditions due to the number, size, and location of the lease parcels” and could “degrade water quality conditions potentially to the point of not meeting water quality standards.”

Of the more than 10,000 acres that were offered up in the area, 13 percent was classified as farmland and another 55 percent as ranchland.

The farm and ranchland in the area can also provide a dual benefit to the community. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has a half-million dollar conservation easement project that will support landowners and conserve hunting and fishing opportunities.

La Plata County Commissioners recognized the importance of Colorado’s farms and ranches and stepped up to ensure that Colorado BLM took a more balanced approach.

The open lands in question are safe for now, but the final management plan that Colorado BLM issued last month still fails to fully address threats to landowners and water in the area.