Tour of area shows breathtaking beauty, and much wildlife activity

Residents of the North Fork Valley know they face an uphill battle in their opposition of a proposed oil and gas lease swap, but feel the more people who get out and explore the lands being offered as part of the deal, the better the chances become to protect the area.

The lease swap would entail Houston-based energy company SG Interests acquiring some 30,000 acres in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests in exchange for withdrawing leases in the Thompson Divide area in both Pitkin and Garfield counties.

The swap was first introduced by the oil and gas industry, and the leases would be swapped with parcels designated by the U.S. Forest Service as leasable in parts of Mesa, Delta, Gunnison and Rio Blanco counties.

The proposed agreement would be an acre-for-acre exchange, with SG also giving up the natural gas storage unit — and the mineral rights below it — in the Wolf Creek Natural Gas Storage Area boundary.

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