Glenwood, Carbondale councils align in support of Thompson Divide protection

A portion of the Thompson Divide area southwest of Glenwood Springs and due west of Carbondale. Elected officials from both towns have signed letters supporting federal legislation to remove the area from future oil and gas leasing permanently.
EcoFlight photo

The elected boards of Carbondale and Glenwood Springs have signed letters supporting the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act — part of a package legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, part of which would permanently prohibit new oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide area southwest of Glenwood Springs, was introduced in the Senate and the House Jan. 27. It was referred to several subcommittees within the House Committee on Natural Resources Feb. 7.

The Carbondale Board of Trustees signed off on the letter Tuesday, and the Glenwood Springs City Council signed theirs Feb. 21.

“It’s just a natural progression of where we should go,” Carbondale Trustee Marty Silverstein said. The letter is “just continuing the tradition Carbondale has had of supporting and protecting the Thompson Divide.”

While the two towns have approved of the permanent moratorium on new oil and gas leases in Thompson Divide, officials at the county level have withheld support.

During the Garfield Board of County Commissioners meeting Feb. 11, the commissioners expressed a desire to keep options open for future oil and gas leasing on the Thompson Divide.

On Tuesday, Carbondale Mayor Dan Richardson apparently referred to a letter signed by the Mesa County Board of County Commissioners on Monday asking Sens. Bennet and Cory Gardner, and Rep. Scott Tipton, to “consider a much more limited scope to the legislative federal mineral withdrawal concept.”

In the letter, the Mesa commissioners’ said they considered the “proposition of a wilderness designation for the Thompson Divide area, perpetually eliminating the opportunity for multiple use, as unacceptable.”

“While some may support the permanency of designating the Thompson Divide area as wilderness, the board believes there are more advantageous ways to manage the expanse that will benefit not only the Western Slope, but also the entire state,” the letter said.

Carbondale Mayor Richardson offered some clarification regarding Mesa County’s stance.

“What [the CORE Act] does not do, as has been confused by some others, is create wilderness area in Thompson Divide — it simply eliminates the ability to for oil and gas leases. Nor does it eliminate any other uses. So, there’s been some confusion out there that I thought would be important to clarify,” Richardson said.

The Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act does not make any declaration of wilderness area, but removes an area of the Thompson Divide — which borders but does not cross the Mesa County line — from future oil and gas leases. There is currently a 20-year moratorium for new lease grants.

Richardson also praised the community for tireless work, particularly through the Thompson Divide Coalition, in bringing together diverse interests to be on a single side of an issue.

“It’s not a stretch to say I get goose bumps thinking about all the effort that has gone into this over the last 10 years, and how if we were able to replicate this process on a myriad of other issues that we’re facing we would be in so much better shape,” Richardson said.

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