The Chama Peak Land Alliance has partnered with Archuleta County, Rio Arriba County (New Mexico), Future West and Grouthtruth Geographics to consider and discuss the impacts of energy development in the region.
On Monday, June 1, a Land Alliance mapping meeting was conducted in response to oil and gas leasing decisions that may affect the future of communities and their landscapes.
By conducting workshops such as the mapping meeting, the partnership can provide a community with a values analysis and map that can then inform local, state and federal officials and assist with planning efforts. According to the workshop invitation, this enables a more seamless and comprehensive approach to energy development across the landscape.
The mapping process is an interactive, community driven planning and mapping exercise that identifies and ranks the community values on the landscape. These values include resources such as municipal water supplies, high-value recreation, wildlife and agricultural production areas that might be impacted by energy development. The exercise is mapped through geographic information systems (GIS) and integrates other layers of data such as wildlife habitats and local government land use plans with the community values in order to create a basis for the landscape-scale planning of energy development. These maps can later be used by communities to limit the impacts of energy development on critical community resources.
“Responsible energy development can bring positive economic benefits and provide American energy independence,” reads the Land Alliance workshop invitation. “Unplanned energy development, however, can inadvertently injure the region’s environment, economy and quality of life.”
The first step in what the Land Alliance calls responsible planning is the community-based mapping process. During the meeting, stakeholders such as county commissioners, landowners, business owners, tribal and economic development representatives ranked different values such as land, recreation, hunting, fishing and vegetation.
Monique Digiorgio, program manager for Future-West, and affiliate of the Land Alliance, explained that the goal of the mapping meeting is to bring together stakeholders in the community in order to identify values that are the greatest concern for them in relation to oil and gas development.
According to Digiorgio, the outcome of the recent meeting was successful, with 28 people in attendance. This was not an extensive outreach and only focused on the stakeholders. This meeting is considered the first step, or as Digiorgio calls it, “the pilot.” She explained that the hope is the Land Alliance will grow to include more people and will introduce the concept to the community in order to show how the mapping would work.
“The purpose is to help communities design the future that they want,” Digiorgio said. “The goal is to work with the county and the community to better plan for the areas of the greatest concern in the community. We will look at worksheets and hope to see trends in order to find the greatest concerns in the county and to do our best to protect these concerns while supporting the community and planning that they might do in gas development.
“Mapping is a limited tool. It will quantify, but it does not replace the overall oil and gas planning process. It is one piece of information that will inform planning at the local, state and federal level. Topics that came up during the meeting include fracking in shallow areas and groundwater. Those are policies that need to happen in addition to the mapping. The mapping is one limited, but we think powerful tool for planning.”
According to chamapeak.org, “To help communities proactively and constructively engage in energy planning, a unique partnership of counties and non-governmental organizations is conducting a community-based mapping process to identify critical community resources such as municipal water supplies, high value recreation, wildlife, and agricultural production areas that may be impacted by energy development.”
“The goal is to create a basis for landscape-scale planning of energy development that incorporates important community values in need of protection in order to lead to better planning outcomes from a variety of perspectives.” The workshop invitation reads, “The effort is not advocating for or against development, but is assisting the community in thoughtful planning and impact mitigation.”
Similar projects have bee a success in Montana and Idaho. These projects were called the MSTI Review Project.
The next step in the local process is to analyze the data and prepare community maps for review and, by August, release the final maps.