West Routt property rights group aims for statewide influence in enabling energy exploration

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— Citizens Supporting Property Rights, the Routt County group that spoke out in favor of local government facilitating energy exploration and organized candidate forums around that theme during the 2012 election, is looking forward to expanding its outreach to include all of Colorado in 2014.

“We are looking forward to working with other individuals and families across Colorado who care about protecting their private property rights,” CSPR President Amy Williams of Hayden wrote in an e-mail. “Our group has made great strides in giving property owners a voice in our local public policy process, and we hope to help duplicate that success in other communities throughout the state.”

The group intends to coordinate its efforts with other mineral rights owners and landowners across Colorado.

Williams said the group’s outlook includes not only representing the rights of property owners who may own mineral rights but also the potential benefits to Routt and Moffat counties, the state and the nation that are realized through energy development.

Williams, a former Routt County assessor, was among three people elected as officers of the group during its Dec. 11 annual meeting, according to Elk River Valley resident Christy Belton. Harry Thompson was elected vice president, and Jody Camilletti is the treasurer. Belton added that CSPR has 100 members including ranchers, farmers and landowners.

Williams said one of CSPR’s goals going forward will be to increase public education surrounding the conservation status of the greater sage grouse.

Critical habitat for the birds not infrequently overlaps areas of Northwest Colorado and neighboring Wyoming where there is interest in energy exploration. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has placed the sage grouse on the list of species that “warrant” endangered status, but the agency has deferred actually listing the large bird because there are other species assigned a higher priority.

“CSPR members assert there is a way to put in adequate protections for the bird species, while at the same time allowing for future oil and gas development,” Williams wrote in the e-mail.

State Senator Randy Baumgardner, a successful candidate for public office who was backed by CSPR in 2012, told an audience of about 66 people in Hayden in September 2012 that it was wrong for local government to prevent owners of mineral rights from making business arrangements with energy companies.

“If you work a deal with an oil company to get the energy out of the ground, you should have the right to do that,” he said. “There needs to be some work done to where everybody’s voice is heard. But the bottom line is, it’s your property. You want to work the deal with the oil company — it’s your minerals. For somebody to say you (can’t), it’s wrong.”

The former Routt County Board of County Commissioners at that time had been involved in a drawn out series of public hearings with oil company Quicksilver Resources over measures the county was insisting on in order to prevent groundwater supplies from being contaminated. Quicksilver was ultimately granted all of the permits it sought but did not act on one of those near Milner.

Some members of CSPR thought the county’s stance was obstructionist.

Williams said that CSPR has struck a balance between policies that allow energy development to proceed while protecting the landscape.

“The group has successfully worked with state and local decision makers to craft policies that allow for the responsible development of oil and gas resources while at the same time putting stringent environmental protections in place,” she added.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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