North Fork Scrapbook: A Visual Archive

The North Fork Scrapbook Project has its inspiration in the original binder-bound  North Fork Scrapbook, a pictorial and narrative ‘scoping’ comment to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, that became a testament to this unique and beloved Colorado valley along the North Fork of the Gunnison River.

The roots of both the bound and the web-based scrapbooks lie in events from December 2011, when the North Fork Valley was faced with the prospect of its public lands being leased for industrial oil and gas drilling, fracking and development. This project grows out of the effort to stop those leases, and the creative engagement of local citizens.

It remains the fervent wish of many in the North Fork Valley to maintain this unique and important slice of Colorado, to ensure that the North Fork retains its rural environment and agricultural heritage, as well as a vibrant example of a dynamic, healthy and creative community.

Envisioned and crafted by Rita Clagett—and ultimately comprised from the contributions of dozens of residents and North Fork families—the ‘Visual Comment’ scrapbook that was compiled for the BLM captured the spirit of the unique composition of lands in the North Fork, the interwoven fabric of public and private, BLM and homestead, farm and uplands, fields and ‘dobes, the people and the place.  These lands are an important part of the North Fork and Smith Fork valleys, and Rita’s scrapbook documents the value of this place in a way that detailed policy-heavy comments cannot.

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North Fork rallies to stop oil and gas leases…and wins deferral.

When the announcement was made by the BLM that it was considering leasing lands in the North Fork for oil and gas drilling and fracking, residents sprang into action.  As news spread about the oil and gas leases, originally scheduled for sale August 2012, being proposed by the BLM, hundreds of locals began showing up at community meetings in December 2011 and early January 2012—hastily called by the Citizens for a Healthy Community, the Conservation Center, and others.

It was quickly clear that even the busiest of seasons was not enough to keep folks away, and that a potent grassroots movement was afoot.  The BLM received thousands of comments, including very precise on-the-ground details and information, and the original Scrapbook in response to its initial (‘scoping’) comment period.   Citizens eventually took their cause all the way to Washington DC in April 2012, to meet with senators, BLM leadership, and White House environmental staff—accompanied by a duplicate copy of the North Fork Scrapbook.

When the BLM suddenly announced in May 2012, that all North Fork parcels proposed for oil and gas leasing would be withdrawn from the August 2012 sale—and indefinitely deferred—the valley celebrated.  But residents also fretted: how long would the ‘deferral’ last?

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 “No Guarantees”   BLM puts parcels back up for sale, North Fork Valley yet to secure proper management.

As citizens waited for an indication of further agency action, the local BLM office continued its work  to revise the obsolete 1980s management plan that includes the public lands in the North Fork.  The BLM holds oil and gas lease sales every three months—and the agency remained tight-lipped about its next move. And although leasing was deferred from the August 2012 sale, the community watched and wondered if the BLM might attempt to lease the lands again, despite the stale nature of the underlying management plan.  And then in late 2012—just in time for Thanksgiving—the BLM suddenly announced it leasing the majority of the lands it originally proposed for oil and gas development in February 2013 and the North Fork had only 30 days to file formal written protests.

The effort to create a digital ‘scrapbook’ was already underway when it became suddenly timely–the need to tell the story of the public lands through the people that rely on them and live around them again became pressing.  And again the community rallied, and again–at almost the last minute–again Colorado BLM backed down and deferred the leases.

 

But, the problem is, it could continue as a recurring battle. Until the BLM finishes updating its land use plan for the area and puts management in place that protects the North Fork its residents feel hostage to the whims of the Colorado office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The Bottom Line: North Fork’s unique resources warrant protection, public lands deserve updated management

Of course the public lands of the North Fork need management that is relevant today, and designed for the future; management that recognizes the unique role these lands serve to the communities and residents in the valley, and the values this community brings to the state of Colorado and the region. Unfortunately the BLM lands in the North Fork are still subject to a land use plan written in the mid-1980s, when many things were very different.

The North Fork Scrapbook Project seeks to protect the unique qualities of our community, its public lands and other agricultural, cultural and natural resources, through sharing the stories that are lived here.

Support the Scrapbook!

Support the Scrapbook!

Your $50, $500, or $5 gift to our sponsor, the Colorado Farm & Food Alliance, will support the Scrapbook and the effort to keep the North Fork a wonderful place.

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