It's time for Farmington and the tri-city area to end its economic dependence on oil and gas production.

The region got a bit of good news last week when Encana announced that its San Juan Basin drilling operation was yielding commercial amounts of oil.

Specifically, that means more than 1,700 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

That oil comes from the Mancos Shale formation and is coaxed to the surface using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Many in the Four Corners area have been hoping for good news on this front.

The basin is known for its natural gas production. But there is a glut and prices have fallen. Many local operations have stopped producing natural gas, so oil production using new techniques presents hope for the local industry.

That industry powers the local economy and the dwindling revenues are forcing officials to consider cuts in government services and even tax increases.

The news from Encana included many hopeful points.

Bottom line, the company expects to spend about $100 million in the basin in 2013, which is about the same as last year.

That is, without a doubt, great news. But it should not breed complacency.

Also in the news recently was a bit about the termination of a deal between Farmington's Merrion Oil and Gas and Denver's Bill Barrett Corp. The companies had planned to explore for oil in the basin.

A Merrion official said ending that deal frees the company to find another partner that will be more aggressive. And he said the termination was not a negative reflection on the potential to extract commercial quantities of oil from the Mancos Shale formation.

But every oil exploration company is looking for the most profitable plays, and there are others in the county that are relatively easy to develop.

We hope oil from the San Juan Basin ultimately offsets and surpasses declining revenue from natural gas, but that could take years -- a decade even.

The region cannot afford to put all its chips on that bet. This economy needs more revenue streams so it can withstand the inevitable energy sector boom and bust cycles.

Ray Hagerman, the newly hired Four Corners Economic Development CEO, told The Daily Times recently that he will follow on work that has been done to determine what types of industries would be appropriate here.

"Certainly we are going to diversify, but we're never going to turn our back on what we're really good at -- which is the energy industry," Hagerman said.

We are not suggesting an abandonment of energy. But this area has other assets.

It is an outdoor sports playground. At certain times of the year it is possible to ski at a nearby Colorado resort one day and climb on a challenging rock wall south of Farmington the next.

Ancestral Puebloan sites are everywhere to explore. They reveal the enduring draw of this region and provide an educational opportunity for tourists.

And we would urge officials not to spurn any possible alternative, even if that is renewable energy. This area has nearly as many sunny days each year as Phoenix, which suggests the potential for solar energy.

An aggressive diversification effort could even include creating new markets for natural gas. Technology companies finding new uses for for the now abundant resource would increase demand worldwide. Why shouldn't those businesses call the Four Corners home?

It's time to get out of the defensive crouch and find long-term solutions.