Colorado's Thompson Divide.
Colorado’s Thompson Divide reminds us of the indivisible relationship that many Americans have with wild places. Our nation’s wildlands have long provided communities economic stability and crucial natural resources that allow them to survive.
Thompson Divide is one of the remaining landscapes that still supports the livelihoods of local communities. Natural resources like drinking water from more than 15 watersheds, revenue from outdoor recreation and world-class trout fishing and prime acreage for cattle grazing operations make up the backbone of this traditional Colorado economy.
But right now, oil and gas drilling is knocking at the doors of many residents in the Thompson Divide area, and threatening their livelihoods.
In 2003 the Bush Administration issued 81 mineral leases in Thompson Divide covering approximately 105,000 acres. A large majority of these leases were sold without environmental review or public involvement. And to add insult to injury, these leases offered little to no protections for landowners, who saw their property invaded by trucks and well pads from the oil companies.
The BLM should void these leases and preserve 80,000 wild acres. Send a message to the BLM to protect the Thompson Divide!
Thanks to the work of The Wilderness Society and its partners, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently re-examining a host of questionable drilling leases covering more than 80,000 acres in the White River National Forest, which sits in the Thompson Divide.
This remarkable national forest is considered one of the crown jewels of America’s public lands system. Home to bugling elk and elusive lynx, White River is the most visited recreation forest in the country and attracts 10 million visitors per year.
The White River leases in question would consume roadless forests and a watershed of blue-ribbon trout streams, threatening the amazing scenery, resources and wildlife that Americans care so deeply about.
The BLM has already examined similar drilling leases in the Thompson Divide, and found them invalid.
Last year, legislation was introduced by Colorado Senator Michael Bennet to withdraw lands from future leasing in the Thompson Divide. This would ensure that the wild lands in the area would be kept safe for traditional uses like ranching, hunting and angling, as well as the wide array of recreational opportunities that drive the region’s economy.
Thompson Divide’s 221,000 acre swath of ranchlands and mid-altitude forests is the source of the region’s agricultural and drinking water. Hikers, mountain bikers and campers enjoy the unparalleled trails throughout the forests, and climbers scale the Thompson Creek Fins.
This area has been ranched for more than a century, and it remains one of the strongest enclaves of traditional ranching culture on the Western Slope.
In his personal journals, written over a century ago after riding horseback into the Thompson Divide, President Theodore Roosevelt, our nation’s first conservationist President, described the Thompson Divide area as “a great, wild country…where the mountains crowded together in chain, peak, and tableland; all of the higher ones wrapped in an unrent shroud of snow.”
To this day, the rugged, pristine character of the Thompson Divide remains largely intact. But that could change quickly if oil and gas companies get their way.
It’s up to the BLM to protect the Thompson Divide and an entire community’s way of life. We hope they will make the right decision and void these existing drilling leases that threaten an important western Colorado economy.