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The Fight Over Fracking in Colorado's North Fork Valley

Over the last 20 years, Colorado’s North Fork Valley has emerged as a model for the New West: Artisanal farms, sustainable wineries, backcountry sports. Then fracking came to town
The Fight Over Fracking in Colorado's North Fork Valley
Photographs by Michael Friberg for Bloomberg Businessweek

The creek above Paonia is slowing to a trickle in July’s heat, the watershed as dry as those that recently burned for two weeks outside Colorado Springs. But in late May it was running fast and milky with snowmelt. Fallen trees propped on rocks threshed the current. A light wind carried the smell of cold stone and spruce, and upstream in the V of the little canyon I could see Mount Beckwith and the green aspen on its shoulders. On the gravel bars, white moths flitted in and out of sunlight. I’d already crossed the fresh tracks of elk, deer, and bear. I waded up the middle, casting to either side, and when I caught two heavy rainbows I zipped them into my vest and headed back to the truck. I hummed as I walked, happy to be back after a month away.

Twenty-two years ago, I built a small off-the-grid adobe house beneath the mountain. Like a lot of others who came to the North Fork Valley, I never really left. When I hunt, I walk out the front door and onto the mountain in the dark. My wife and I bike and ski all over the surrounding ridges, within minutes of town. We live mostly in Denver, but go back to the house as often as we can.