Community Agriculture Alliance: Fighting for property rights

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Why are so many farmers and ranchers in Routt County rallying for responsible energy development? Because property rights are important, and mineral rights are private property. 

Citizens Supporting Property Rights recently formed to represent the land and mineral owners and citizens of Routt County who see the oil and gas industry as business partners. In an age where the family farmer and rancher see ever-increasing financial challenges, CSPR’s members think the valuable minerals beneath our lands can complement the priceless treasures above. Revenues from responsible mineral extraction have the probability of enhancing agricultural operations; diversified revenue sources can increase the financial strength of area agricultural operations. In some cases, royalty revenue could eliminate the need for subdivision when cash gets tight.

Colorado’s oil and gas industry brings economic benefits to our state and community, along with private-sector opportunities. Much-needed jobs provided by the industry, which typically pay 50 percent more than the state’s average wage, create taxpayers and consumers that provide benefits to citizens and a significant influx of tax revenue to the state, counties, local schools and other local special taxing districts.

We all agree energy development must be done the right way. In fact, farmers and ranchers have been the land’s stewards for generations and have a vested interest in ensuring oil and natural gas is brought to the surface responsibly. And CSPR knows that in Colorado, it is. Colorado has the most stringent technical and environmental oil and gas regulations in the nation. These regulations, imposed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, are not voluntary. In order to receive permits to drill in Colorado, these rules must be satisfied. Since the extensive regulatory framework was established, additional rules further have strengthened the state’s oil and gas regulatory regime, including the current updates being sought for water-quality monitoring and setbacks. It deserves to be mentioned that more than 90 percent of the companies in Colorado already participate in a state-sanctioned groundwater monitoring regime. The new rules will follow this voluntary program, proving that operators themselves are interested in producing this resource safely and responsibly, even above what currently is mandated through regulations.

Farmers and ranchers are culturally patient and polite. However, CSPR thinks that emotion and public opinion have overtaken thoughtfulness, fairness and property rights relative to Routt County’s oil and gas permitting process. CSPR is committed to ensuring that county and state officials are reminded of these property rights, and we will provide an alternative view with productive and legal options.

Vonnie Frentress is owner of the Frentress Ranch as well as an Advisory Board member for the Community Agricultural Alliance, broker/owner of Colorado Group Realty and a member of Citizens Supporting Property Rights.

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