Was 2017 a challenging year? Hell yes.
And that’s why our work is so critical. We’re here because public and environmental health doesn’t always get prioritized over corporate interests. We’re here because wildlife, water and a stable climate don’t have a seat at the table, don’t have a voice of their own to raise. Well, actually, the climate did throw an impressive tantrum this year. Still, the climate needs advocates too.
And to be honest, many of us needed a wake up call. We needed a reminder about just what it is we care most deeply about it, and a reason to fight for it. It’s easy to tell you are all fired up! More than 2800 of you submitted over 4200 comments through our website on local and national issues impacting our region. Over 2000 of you attended one of our events this year.
You, our members and supporters, are making a difference. Here are some highlights of all you did this year. Put up your feet, soak in the good news and rest up. We’re going to need you as much as ever in 2018.
We Defeated the Village at Wolf Creek!
Perseverance pays off. After decades of work to protect Wolf Creek Pass, we won a major court victory in May when a federal judge nullified the land exchange enabling development of the Village at Wolf Creek. Judge Matsch declared the Forest Service failed to act in the public interest when it approved the exchange.
The Forest Service is appealing the decision, so we will continue to defend the ruling in court as well as pursue other avenues for ensuring permanent protection of Wolf Creek Pass from unnecessary and harmful development. Wolf Creek Pass is not only a critical wildlife corridor, but home to rare fen wetlands, the headwaters of the Rio Grande and the threatened Canada Lynx. Learn More
We Defended Canyons of the Ancients
Nearly two decades ago we campaigned in support of the designation for Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (CANM)and then advocated for a strong balanced management plan reflecting local values. A decade after the management plan was finalized, we never imagined we would need to defend its very existence.
When Secretary Zinke included it on his list of monuments to review for changes, communities, businesses, and citizens let it be known in no uncertain terms that any changes would be unacceptable. Our Senators and Representative joined in and fortunately, so far, the threats haven’t materialized. We will continue to lead on the defense of this sacred landscape knowing you are behind us. Learn More
We Fought Silverton Guide’s Heli-ski Expansion
You told us this was important to you from the beginning. And the more we dug in, the more our hackles went up. We joined hundreds of you in submitting comments detailing valid concerns regarding Silverton Guide’s heli-ski expansion proposal to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Concerns included safety, user conflicts, protection of quiet use and the agency’s failure to analyze alternatives.
When the BLM refused to release the comments, we filed a Freedom of Information Act Request, confirming the vast majority of public comments opposed the expansion. With your help, we identified at least 25 comments you submitted through our website that the BLM did not release, raising suspicions about the integrity of the process. The BLM rubber-stamped Silverton Guide’s proposal and we joined other conservation partners in appealing to the Interior Board of Land Appeals. Learn more
We Fought Irresponsible Oil and Gas Leases
We joined San Miguel County and other conservation organizations to sue the Tres Rios Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management for their decision to lease parcels without adequately considering the environmental impacts. In March of this year, the agency leased parcels being considered as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) without conducting any of the required environmental analysis.
We Defended BLM and EPA Methane Rules
We been effective in defending common sense methane rules that protect our health, climate and economies. As you know, we in the San Juan Basin have the distinction of living under the nation’s methane hotspot. Under the Obama Administration, the EPA and BLM created rules to curtail wasteful leaking, venting and flaring of natural gas. The new administration, however, is working tirelessly to scrap the rules. We’re using every tool we have, including the powerful voices of those who live under the hotspot to demand protections. Learn More
Methane Rule Advocacy
- Congressional Review Act (CRA) Defense: We narrowly succeeded in saving the BLM Methane Waste Rule from being scrapped with no chance of revival.
- EPA Rule Defense: We traveled to Washington D.C. to testify in defense of the EPA Methane Rule
- Sued Over Illegal Delay: We filed a lawsuit against the BLM for illegally delaying the implementation of their methane waste rule
- Protests: You showed up two rallies in Durango in support of the BLM Methane Rule, both of which garnered media attention
- Public Comments: You submitted nearly a 1,000 comments to agencies in support of the methane rules. You also made phone calls to Senators and your Representative elevating of the importance of the issue.
We Elevated the Voices of Greater Chaco
We continued our long fight against rampant and illegal oil and gas development in Greater Chaco, but this year we did more to elevate the voices of those who live there. In January, we demonstrated in support of tribal demands to cancel a lease sale. This past summer we joined forces with photographer Rob Ziegler, to launch Faces of Chaco, a photo documentary telling the story of those who live in Greater Chaco, whose voices are rarely heard and whose faces are rarely seen. The project has heightened awareness of what is at stake and generated thousands of comments demanding better protections for impacted communities. We’ll continue to fight in the courts, protest each and every lease sale and utilize every tool available. As we move into 2018, we know we have the support to make a difference.
We’re Transitioning our Energy Supply in Southwest Colorado
When Washington fails to act, communities across the country step up. We launched a diverse, local, grassroots effort to accelerate our transition to clean, local and affordable energy sources. Over 1000 citizens and 100 businesses signed a petition asking the City of Durango to set a goal of reaching 100% renewable energy by 2050, with 80% generated locally by 2030.
We’re shining a spotlight on La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) and their work toward greater local renewable energy. In addition to attending meetings, we’ve launched a monthly blog reporting on their renewable energy efforts and transparency. Learn More
We Won Greater Protections from Oil and Gas
No longer exempt from hazardous waste rules
In 1988 the EPA admitted that generic solid waste rules for the oil and gas were inadequate (and this was before the fracking boom!) and they agreed to update and review them every three years. They never quite got around to it though. Along with many partners, we sued and this year a judge formally approved a consent decree requiring the agency to review and, if necessary, revise rules for the disposal and handling of dangerous and harmful oil and gas wastes. We’ll continue to hold them accountable. Learn More
Natural Gas Plants Must Report Through Toxic Release Inventory (TRI)
TRI is a powerful public reporting requirement allowing communities access to information about toxic releases to their air, land and water. Yet, inexplicably the oil and gas industry has been exempt. Five years ago we joined 16 other groups in petitioning the EPA. In January, the agency finally released a rule requiring natural gas processing facilities to start publicly reporting their release of toxic chemicals. Learn More
We Accelerated the End of Coal in Northern NM
Thanks in part to our advocacy over the years, two units, equivalent to half the capacity at San Juan Generating Station, are being retired. Even better, PNM, the plant’s largest owner, announced it would pull out, and likely close, SJGS in 2022. This is a huge win for the Four Corners and has allowed us to transition our work toward ensuring the inevitable energy transition in Farmington is not only renewable, but local and just for workers and our communities. We’re optimistic change can be an incredibly positive one if we demand it.
We Launched our Animas Riverkeeper Campaign
Many of you helped us celebrate our launch of the Animas Riverkeeper campaign, drastically expanding our capacity to engage on issues facing the Animas River. Marcel Gaztambide, your Animas Riverkeeper, is the conservation advocate at the table when it comes to cleanup of the Bonita Peak Mining District in the Animas headwaters. He’s already tracking progress, posting blog updates and ensuring community engagement. Marcel is working hard to enhance recreation opportunities and safe access between Durango and Farmington. Lastly, he’s watchdogging our water districts, the taxpayer funded entities tasked with managing our water resources and advocating for transparency, accountability and the value of conserving water in the river for fish and wildlife. Learn More