As a card-carrying member of the Sierra Club, GreenPeace, and NRDC to name a few I am appalled by what the 350 Central Colorado argument is promoting with their open Letter to Nestlé Waters North America.
One thing is a fact. They hate Nestlé , period. 350.org is an international environmental organization addressing the climate crisis and it is not the same as 350 Central. 350.org’s stated goal is to end the use of fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy by building a global, grassroots movement. This, I strongly support and I also support action to reduce plastic use worldwide. But 350 Central is misusing the national organization’s name to give them legitimacy.
They have very few members (no documentation) and there is no access to their membership on their Facebook page. The last post was Oct.18. Their time would be better spent working on a national bottle bill, the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, which is currently in the House. Also, the oil companies are the true villains when it comes to plastic production and pollution. I believe that’s where the major battle should take place. Sadly, much of 350 Central arguments use Trumpian logic (short on the facts). Let’s take each issue and test for truth.
Community Giving: 350 says few citizens benefit from Nestlé in the county. Quite the contrary. The number of people and projects served by organizations like Buena Vista and Salida Public schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, Trout Unlimited, GARNA, the Chaffee County Community Foundation, Quilts of Valor, etc. is not trivial. No other large corporations in our valley have donated as much. Also, two Nestlé public fishing leases serve many local residents and tourists.
350 says “Nestlé water is free”: Quite the contrary. They spend over $100,000 a year to bottle Nestlé Spring Water. “Twin Lakes reservoir water is not drinkable” is another lie. Most all Twin Lakes water is used for irrigation and municipal use. That same water is being used to help communities downstream of Pueblo to have clean drinking water instead of very bad polluted water they have been drinking for many years. Reservoir and river water as well as the Nestlé springs water all have to be made “drinkable” by various treatment methods.
Conservation Easement: The main purpose of this easement is to protect Bighorn Sheep that spend the winter on Nestlé property. Conservation easements take time and the land has been protected as private property without the easement for 11 years. The easement will provide protection even if Nestlé were to sell their property.
Recycling Study investment: 350 Central says it is not practical to recycle plastic bottles in Chaffee County. How can that be? It is no harder than recycling cardboard, aluminum etc. Chaffee Waste, Waste Management, and Angel of Shavano all recycle plastic bottles like the ones Nestlé makes which themselves are made largely of recycled plastic. They invest millions in recycling research.
Nestlé Ruby Mountain Spring water is currently protected in Chaffee County as they replace more than 100 percent of the water they use. If the water right were sold to Aurora or Colorado Springs it could truly leave the county through the Otero Pipeline north of Buena Vista thus dewatering the river for many miles. If the land or water were sold to a developer, wildlife would be the loser even with a conservation easement. Enough homes could be built to displace bighorn sheep, Golden Eagles, mule deer, and the loss of solitude while fishing or boating with numerous homes lining the river from Ruby Mt. to Fisherman’s Bridge. That’s not what I want for Chaffee County.
The previous opposition group during the initial Nestlé permitting process disappeared after the permit was granted and did nothing to address the plastic, recycling, or other issues they now seemed to be concerned about. The families who are employed by Nestlé and provide part of our local economy would be losers. No company is perfect and has room for improvement, but why are we spending tax dollars to bring in companies and jobs, but yet now want to kick out a large company that does contribute to our economy. 350 Central also does not understand water law and the legal restrictions the commissioners have in this process.
Editor’s note: Reed Dils is, in fact, the President of Friends of Browns Canyon. He clarifies that this letter represents his views, and not the views of the organization. That said, his association with that organizaiotn is the expereince and platform from which he expresses his views.