The Kestrel Program takes place multiple times a year, every year. In May 2011, high school students from the Roaring Fork Valley near Aspen, Colorado, took part in the program, focusing this time on natural gas drilling.
A roundtable seminar on May 23rd at Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale, focused on the Thompson Divide area west of Carbondale that currently has 81 property leases held by gas companies such as Encana, Williams and SG Interests. The Thompson Divide Coalition, a broad base of local ranchers, hunters, fishermen, recreationalists, conservationists and community leaders, is working to convince these leaseholders to let their leases expire. Most are 10-year leases that would expire before 2013 if they have not been used.
The seminar featured Steve Bennett, field manager at the BLM Colorado River Valley office, Kathy Friesen, environmental liaison for Encana Oil and Gas Inc, Peter Hart, conservation analyst and staff attorney for Wilderness Workshop, Judy Fox-Perry, grassroots coordinator for the Thompson Divide Coalition and local rancher, Jason Sewell, a fifth-generation rancher in Thompson Creek.
As a follow-up to the discussions, the students flew the following day with EcoFlight to see for themselves the area where drilling is proposed and other areas where drilling has occurred. Students were able to gain a perspective on this issue that few people get to experience, flying over the still pristine Thompson Divide area and then over oil and gas drilling on the Roan Plateau.
“The flight gave us a visual perspective of the proximity to people’s homes", one student said, flying over natural gas development near Rifle.
Another student commented that “the meeting and the flight caused me to realize what a prevalent issue natural gas is in this valley and that we all depend on natural gas".
Seeing the high density of natural gas drilling from the air and realizing that the drilling is very close to the Roaring Fork Valley had the most impact on the majority of participants.
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