The campaign to protect the Thompson Divide reached an exciting milestone at the end of 2014. Thanks to the conservation-minded White River National Forest Plan released by the Forest Service in early December, the majority of the Thompson Divide is now closed to future oil and gas leasing for the next 15-20 years.
Our grantee, the Thompson Divide Coalition (TDC), is using a unique approach to protect this pristine landscape that involves both administrative and legislative action to prevent future development, while working with current lease-holders to retire existing leases.
The Thompson Divide is a 220,000 acre landscape that includes 15 different watersheds. These watersheds bring clean water to Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Redstone and Paonia. This outdoor recreation destination supports 300 jobs and contributes $30 million a year to the local economy. In this largely roadless area, one can enjoy gold-metal trout fishing, rock and ice climbing, backcountry skiing, big-game hunting and a backcountry snowmobile trail that stretches all the way to Grand Junction.
The Forest Service set an important precedent by closing the area to future oil and gas development. Until the BLM cancels existing leases and closes the Thompson Divide to future leasing, TDC’s administrative work is not done. There are currently 61 active leases, covering 100,000 acres in the heart of the Thompson Divide. In 2007, the Interior Department’s Board of Land Appeals held that the leases issued in 2003 by the Bush Administration were in violation of the NEPA and Endangered Species Act. The BLM is currently analyzing 25 of these illegal leases.
Take action today by thanking the Forest Service for protecting the Thompson Divide and urge the BLM to follow suit.
Passing the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act is the long-term strategy for permanently protecting the Thompson Divide. On December 28th, 2014, Senator Michael Bennett announced that he plans to re-introduce legislation to permanently protect the Thompson Divide from future oil and gas leasing, thus protecting it beyond the lifespan of the White River National Forest Plan.