| ||THE ISSUE || |
The Valle Vidal (Valley of Life) is a beautiful 100,000 acres of forest in northern New Mexico south of the Colorado border and north of Eagle Nest. The area is believed to have rich deposits of shallow, coalbed methane gas. Valle Vidal was donated to the U.S. Forest Service in 1982, but was never included in the formal forest management plan. Therefore, the Forest Service must decide if mineral development will be allowed on the site, and if so, what restrictions will be mandated. In 2002, Houston-based El Paso Production Company applied to the Forest Service to lease 33,000 acres of the Valle Vidal for drilling. Because there is no management plan in place, the application is on hold. Two regions nearby, the Bosque del Oso Wildlife area near Trinidad, Colorado, and Vermejo Park Ranch, which is on the north and east border of the Valle Vidal already produce significant amounts of natural gas. Environmental groups and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson are vowing to sue the federal government if it clears the way for energy development.
| ||CARE's POSITION || |
The charge that coalbed methane production will "destroy" the beauty of Valle Vidal is simply untrue. Proof of this fact lies only a matter of miles away on Ted Turner's Vermejo Park Ranch. El Paso Production Company operates nearly 600 wells on this 593,000 acres ranch filled with bison and elk. The environmental manager for the ranch says wells don't bother bison or the elk, and Vermejo Park continues to enjoy the reputation as a premier hunting, fishing and wildlife-watching experience. In fact, when visitors come to the ranch, hired hands like to play a game called, "find the well" because in many instances it's very difficult for the casual observer to see any evidence of natural gas extraction. Turner has proven that modern oil and natural gas development can take place while preserving the land's natural beauty. It is reasonable to expect that the U.S. Forest Service can model a development plan for Valle Vidal similar to what exists at Vermejo Park.
Valle Vidal is a beautiful land that deserves to be preserved in the same way that Vermejo Park has been preserved, while at the same time giving the state and nation the benefit of more domestic natural gas production.
| ||FACTS || |
- Valle Vidal is located in the Carson National Forest
- It covers an area of approximately100,000 acres
- Pennzoil donated the Valle Vidal to America in 1982
- Below the Valle Vidal is the Raton Basin
- It's believed Raton Basin in the Valle Vidal holds significant quantities of coalbed methane gas
- In 2002 Houston-based El Paso Production Company applied to lease 33,000 acres for drilling
- The Valle Vidal sits between two prolific coalbed methane-gas development areas
- Bosque del Oso Wildlife Area near Trinidad, Colorado
- Vermejo Park Ranch near Cimarron, N.M.
- El Paso Production Company operates nearly 600 wells on Vermejo Park Ranch
- Near the proposed drilling area is the Philmont Boy Scout Ranch, which has been enjoyed by boy scouts for decades
- The National Forests were established to "protect water flows" and to provide "multiple use" benefits to the country, including timber cutting, mineral development and recreation
- Environmental groups vow to sue the government if development is permitted
- Public comment will be taken through the multiple year planning process
- The final decision on drilling isn't expected until 2008
| ||THE CONTROVERSY || |
The battle over the future of Valle Vidal is similar to other debates concerning energy development on public lands across the country. Local residents would rather not deal with the increased community and environmental impacts of oil and natural gas exploration and production (i.e. more truck traffic, road building in rural areas and the presence of equipment). People who intend to use the area for recreational opportunities such as hunting, fishing, hiking and camping would like the area to remain as undisturbed as possible. Additionally, environmental groups that have vowed to oppose all energy development on any new lands are rallying all support they can find to stop and wells from being drilled. At present, the only energy company involved in the Valle Vidal controversy is El Paso Production Company. However, all oil and natural gas companies have an interest in the project because the future of their business is dependent on the ability to explore and produce oil and gas in new areas. All the while, the nation continues to consume more oil and natural gas while its known reserves are depleting. Continued exploration and production is critical to meeting America's fuel demands.