Glenwood Springs City Council urges action to control Thompson Divide gas development |

Glenwood Springs City Council urges action to control Thompson Divide gas development

Glenwood Springs City Council is encouraging U.S. Rep. John Salazar to introduce legislation that would prevent or limit natural gas drilling in the Thompson Divide area, which includes the Four Mile Creek drainage.

The Carbondale-based Thompson Divide Coalition (TDC) has drafted a bill called the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act. It is seeking local government support in hopes that Salazar will carry the bill.

If passed by Congress, it would withdraw federally owned lands within the 221,500-acre Thompson Divide area west of Carbondale from new mineral leasing.

It would also set up a process for existing leases to be acquired from willing lease holders, either by voluntary donation, purchase, exchange or retirement of leases, but protect the rights of lease holders who do not want to sell.

“We support the efforts of the Thompson Divide Coalition,” reads a letter to Salazar from the Glenwood City Council, which earned unanimous approval from council members at their Aug. 5 meeting. “We support the aims of that bill and request that you introduce the bill during this session in order to move this effort forward.”

The TDC also made a brief presentation to the Carbondale Board of Trustees last week. The board agreed to consider a letter of support as well, at its upcoming Aug. 17 meeting.

The grassroots group is made up of local ranchers, conservation groups and hunting and recreation interests, with support from several local governments.

The Thompson Divide area includes the watersheds of Thompson, Four Mile and Three Mile creeks, as well as portions of Muddy Basin, Coal Basin and the headwaters of East Divide Creek, and spans portions of Garfield, Gunnison, Pitkin, Mesa and Delta counties.

Currently, 81 undeveloped leases exist within the area, most of which were issued by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management at competitive auctions within the last 10 years. However, others have existed for several decades and are no longer considered active leases.

“The Thompson Divide area is defined by abundant environmental, economic and recreational values,” reads the group’s statement of purpose. “The clean water, air, rural and agricultural heritage and recreational and sporting activities would be negatively impacted by oil and gas development.”

Recently, Garfield County commissioners rejected a similar endorsement of the TDC’s efforts. However, they intend to ask Salazar’s office to appear at a future county commissioners meeting to address the issue.

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