Plan for lands near Thompson Divide Colorado would cancel portion of illegally issued energy leases while leaving other lands at risk

Jul 29, 2016

Roadless lands near Maam Peak remain at risk under the BLM's final plan.

Photo by Will Sardinsky
The Bureau of Land Management released an Environmental Impact Statement that proposes to cancel 25 leases in the Thompson Divide.

Taking the next step in a public process to determine how to manage 65 illegally-issued leases in the White River National Forest in Western Colorado, the Bureau of Land Management released a final plan that proposes to cancel 25 leases in the Thompson Divide while leaving dozens of other leases in place, threatening tens of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat and roadless lands. The Wilderness Society is pleased with the agency’s decision to review the 65 illegal oil and gas leases issued under the Bush administration and to cancel 25 of the leases. The BLM has one last opportunity to fix the final plan by applying protective stipulations to the other illegally-issued leases that threaten roadless lands such as East Willow, Mamm Peak, and Battlement Mesa areas of the forest, before finalizing this decision.  

The Forest Service recently decided that all new oil and gas leases in this area on the White River National Forest must include at least minimum restrictions to protect natural resources.  Unfortunately, the BLM is now reversing course on its earlier proposal and is refusing to apply those measures to some of the most valuable lands covered by these illegal leases, leaving critical natural resources at risk.

The following statement is from Scott Miller, Senior Regional Director for the Southwest Region:

The Thompson Divide is quite simply one of Colorado’s crown jewels.  The area is home to some of the most sought-after hunting grounds, is the region’s source of agricultural and drinking water, and remains one of the strongest enclaves of traditional ranching culture on the Western Slope. We enthusiastically support the BLM’s decision to cancel the illegal leases on the Thompson Divide.  

While the decision from the BLM to withdraw the illegal leases on the Thompson Divide will keep it safe from drilling, the plan fails to put needed safeguards in place for other nearby roadless lands in the White River National Forest, one of our nation’s treasures and the most visited national forest in the country. There is still much more that can be done to preserve this wild slice of the American West for generations to come.  

There is room for both energy development and conservation on our public lands, and it is unfortunate the BLM is not following the Forest Service’s lead to strike that balance.”

Scott Miller