The May 20 letter from Peter Shelton described his experiences at the Colorado Bureau of Land Management's quarterly oil and gas lease sale auction. In his letter, Mr. Shelton makes some disparaging remarks and inferences about one of our highly valued employees he encountered, who also happens to have a disability - he is blind. We are highly offended that Mr. Shelton thinks it is humorous to poke fun at those who have ability challenges - all Americans should be offended.
The employee he references is a highly qualified petroleum engineer, no small achievement even for someone without ability challenges, who is very respected by his peers and the customers in the oil and gas industry he works with. Despite his challenges, he volunteers, to help with the everyday logistical needs of holding an oil and gas sale, such as escorting the public to the sale, after they have been through our security check.
While Mr. Shelton's missive criticized some of BLM's programs, policies or decisions, it crossed the line of cruelty and intolerance when it included a personal attack on one of our staff members who happens to be disabled. Malicious remarks about a person's appearance or abilities, and veiled threats referencing a weapon go far beyond being a detractor that disagrees with a government policy.
Mr. Shelton has other issues with our oil and gas auction procedures. He characterizes our sale as a "de facto closed society," yet; our oil and gas sales, like our land use planning public meetings, have always been open to all. Mr. Shelton needs to understand that the decision as to whether or not to make lands available for oil and gas leasing is not made at the lease auction, it is made during BLM's land use planning process long before a lease auction. It is regrettable, however, that many local, county and federal government meetings and hearings are sparsely attended by the public - generally by only those with specific interest in the proceedings. That is where Mr. Shelton, other landowners and the general public need to become involved to influence the decision-making process. In fact, BLM's land use planning process provides for and encourages public involvement. Rather than criticizing the process, one should ask: how can I participate and when do you need me?
We also want to clarify that the federal mineral estate belongs to all Americans, not a select few. It was reserved and split from the surface-estate by Congress because of its value to all Americans. The revenues generated, as well as the energy or minerals produced benefit the country. For instance: natural gas produced in Colorado is sufficient to heat millions of homes for decades; and revenues from federal mineral estate, both onshore and offshore, are the second largest source of revenue to the federal government behind tax revenue. Additionally, local communities benefit directly from this revenue. In 2004, more than $80 million in federal mineral revenues were given to the State of Colorado to be shared with counties where mineral development occurred to help with infrastructure, such as schools and roads, emergency services, etc.
Finally, nearly five years ago, as an added service to our customers, BLM Colorado developed an O&G leasing website to make it easier for the public to obtain lease sale information; even though, posting paper copies of the official notice is all that is required by law. Unfortunately, technical issues have recently shutdown our website. While we are working quickly to find alternatives to the website, BLM has analyzed the cost of posting the sale notice in newspapers across the state and found it is cost prohibitive. While it might seem best to inform each and every individual landowner about pending lease sales, it would not be practical, nor is staffing available to individually track the sale of private property, nor keep track of current landowners, many of whom live out of state.
As Mr. Shelton noted, we recognize the need to constantly improve our communication and are exploring alternative methods of ensuring the public is adequately notified of future lease sales - especially during the ongoing internet shutdown. Yet, some of the onus lies on private property owners who should be familiar with real-estate disclosure rules and their property rights - particularly concerning the mineral estate - when purchasing their property.
I realize Mr. Shelton has issues with BLM Colorado's oil and gas lease sale auctions and we are willing to work with him and others to better understand the process. It is my hope, in turn, that the next time he is upset about the process, he will communicate with me rather than lashing out at our dedicated employees.
-- Lynn Rust, Deputy State Director - Energy, Lands and Minerals, BLM Colorado
Peter Shelton Responds : Mr. Rust misreads my column of May 20. I made no disparaging statement about the Bureau of Land Management's blind employee. I simply pointed out the obvious irony of a man in his situation performing what was essentially a security duty.
The "ability" slam is, I'm afraid, a smokescreen to obscure BLM failures on other, larger questions. Specifically, notification to surface owners and true public involvement in oil and gas lease sales.
There are at least four parties involved here: the owners of the mineral rights (in many cases the federal government represented by the BLM), the energy companies (who make billions off these leases), the surface owners (who lose aesthetically and financially with nearby gas development), and the American public, which has a stake in what occurs both above and below the ground. (The public might also speak for the mute -- for wildlife and a healthy environment). The BLM has effectively, if not legally or intentionally, shrunk the conversation to just two of these parties -- themselves and their "customers" in the industry. And the latter, naturally enough, would just as soon you and I remain out of earshot.
Yes, the planning process is open to all. In the case of the Uncompahgre Field Office Resource Management Plan, those public meetings took place 20 years ago during Ronald Reagan's first term of office. The Plan was finalized in 1989. It was supposed to have a shelf life of 10-12 years. Five years out of date now, it isn't scheduled to be revised for another four or five years. So, Mr. Rust, how can I participate, and when do you need me?
In the past few weeks, the Denver Post , the Grand Junction Sentinel , The Rocky Mountain News and others, have called on the BLM to improve its stunningly ineffectual communication and notification procedures. (How can an agency of the federal government find it "cost prohibitive" to notify private property owners that the mineral rights beneath their homes are about to be leased to Enron Canada? And that Enron Canada will subsequently be allowed all "reasonable use" of the surface to get at those minerals?)
Colorado congressmen Mark Udall and John Salazar, plus Senator Ken Salazar, are working on legislation to better protect surface owners and improve water quality and other environmental degradations caused by oil and gas drilling. Gas industry lobbyists will fight these efforts tooth and nail as they did the most recent attempt in the Colorado state legislature to bring some balance to surface versus subsurface rights.
Coloradoans should support these bills and the representatives who sponsor them. And we should demand accountability from our elected officials at the county and state levels. (58th District Rep. Ray Rose [303-866-2955] voted to kill surface rights legislation in February.) Call them if you value your views, your peace and quiet, your property values. Call BLM state director Ron Wenker (303-239-3600) and tell him you are proud of the agency for supporting the rights of the ability challenged -- now get busy supporting the rights of the citizenry at large.
Too Close for Comfort
Monday morning as I was walking to work I encountered a sight that frightened and horrified me. Unfortunately it did not surprise me. A child's bicycle lay prone on the pavement of Townsend Ave.; back wheel positioned under the front tire of an SUV.
By the grace of God the child involved was sitting calmly on the curb and the driver of the vehicle though understandably shaken will not have to live with a tragedy that would have haunted her for the rest of her life.
For a number of years I have watched, with growing alarm, the escalating chaos of the streets surrounding our schools during the eight o clock rush hour. Although our community has put forth an admirable effort in educating our children of the dangers of AIDS, getting into cars with strangers and drugs, I believe that our efforts at initiating awareness of what is statistically the single biggest killer of school-age children, the automobile, have been woefully inadequate. I do not know the details of this morning's accident. In most cases, accidents of this nature are the fault of the child. However, we as adults, we as school administrators, we as a community bear the responsibility of taking action to protect our children; because education notwithstanding children do not always make good decisions and adults make mistakes. Adults do not always see clearly. Children do not always look both ways.
I believe that the only reliable way to protect children and vehicles from each other is to separate them in areas where there tend to be numerous pedestrians and vehicles converging in a short period of time. I have come up with what I believe to be a workable solution to the problem of the safety and circulation on the streets surrounding our two schools.
Understanding that our community is geographically scattered and that it is necessary for some parents to drive their children to school, I suggest that there be an opportunity for these parents do so prior to 7:45 a.m., when there should be a designated drop-off area in front of each school. After 7:45 a.m., the streets surrounding the schools should be closed to vehicular traffic for a half-hour to allow the safe passage of school children who are walking, cycling or skate boarding to school.
This could be accomplished by placing a construction barrier on Townsend at Colorado, on Columbia at Townsend, on Galena at Townsend, on Townsend at Galena, on Aspen at Galena, on Galena at Aspen, on Columbia at Aspen, on Aspen at Colorado and at all entrances to the high school. The Town of Telluride Code enforcement officer could take on this duty. I do not believe that the reduction of issued parking tickets and dog violations during this time would cause the community undo hardship.
I believe that this is a viable, economical solution. I believe that a community that is willing to spend millions of dollars for a hockey rink and a theater should be willing to spend a couple thousand dollars for signs reading: This street is closed between 7:45 and 8 a.m. Monday - Friday from late August to early September to allow safe pedestrian access to school for our children. Holidays excepted.
Although I believe that this potential solution will not be an unmanageable burden on anyone, I expect that there will be a certain amount of public outcry should the Telluride R-1 School District and the Town of Telluride decide to institute this program. To those of you, who are prepared to object on whatever grounds, please ask yourself, is your convenience worth the life of a child? If we are not prepared to protect our children, what are we prepared to protect?
-- Kari Distefano
M.V. - Vote 'Yes' to Change Voting Procedures Editor:
This election is about empowerment, voting yes on charter amendment 2B is a great opportunity to allow you to have more of a say in your town government. This charter change will allow for a more democratic form of government. Currently, you only have one vote per election regardless of how many seats are open. If you vote yes, then voters will be able to vote for more candidates and that should result in a council that truly represents them.
With over a thousand registered voters and a strong mix of resident and non-resident property owners, the idea that a change will allow developers and/or special interest groups to have more control of Mountain Village seems confusing. You, the voters, are intelligent enough to see through any slick ad campaigns. We believe this change is in the best interest of our village.
This election is about choice and control; it is about how much impact the voters in this town should have in choosing their elected officials.
VOTE YES ON 2B. GIVE VOTERS MORE VOTES IN CHOOSING THEIR COUNCIL.
-- Rube Felicelli, TMV Councilperson (mayor pro-tem) and Jonathan Sweet, TMV Councilperson
A Standing Ovation Editor:
The Telluride R-1 School District extends sincere thanks and appreciation to the Telluride Foundation for funding technical assistance for the Theater Advisory Committee (TAC) for the Michael D. Palm Theatre. TAC members and staff include: Paul Lehman, Barbara Betts, Liz Lance, Ann Brady, Peggy Curran, Paul Ruud, Lynda Tueller, Leyla Wefalle, Stu Fraser, Amy Levek, Bill deAlva, Kurt Shugars, Bebe Kallas, Mona deAlva and Michael Wingfield.
The committee has met with two consultants from Management Consultants for the Arts, Inc., to develop an operation and business plan for the Palm. The intensive planning process resulted in a solid blueprint to maximize the benefit of this incredible new venue for students and the entire community. The Theatre's mission statement is: The Michael D. Palm expands and enriches educational and performing arts opportunities as a center of community life for the Telluride Region.
The Telluride Foundation and the Theater Advisory Committee members and staff deserve a standing ovation for their vision and support of the Palm.
-- Mary Rubadeau, Superintendent, Telluride R-1 School District