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Keep Thompson Divide like it is

My SideMike and Kit Strang, Jeff Dysart, Randy Melton and Bo Jones

Outstanding scenery, expansive forests, abundant wildlife and clear, fish-filled streams – these are the priceless amenities that make most people want to live in or visit Colorado.In the Roaring Fork Valley, these outdoor assets are the key ingredients that support our economy and our heritage. Many locales in the West can do without intact landscapes and still have a robust economy. That’s not the case in our valley. The White River National Forest that surrounds us is the most visited national forest in the nation. People come here, live here and invest here because of the outdoors. Robust hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities are essential to our way of life. The Thompson Divide area, in particular, boasts two of the most hunted units in the state, and its headwaters provide much of the flow to the Roaring Fork River and its Gold Medal trout fishery. Mountain bikers, off-road enthusiast and horsepackers also use the area extensively. The Thompson Divide’s ultimate value is not immediately obvious to some. But for us, its value goes deeper than first glances.The foundation of our community and our economy could change dramatically if energy development comes to our valley. More than 100,000 acres have been leased and could be extensively developed in the mountains to our west, according to preliminary plans. Energy development would require dozens of miles of roads, millions of gallons of water, increase traffic and alter the character of our valley and the way we have made our living for decades. While we believe there are areas where energy development should proceed and that we need domestic sources of energy, we know from experience how precious the surrounding forests and public lands are to the recreation-based economy and businesses that already exist in the Roaring Fork valley. Energy development is simply not compatible with our valley’s long successful outdoor-based economic structure.Our reliance on the forest and streams around the valley for our livelihood and our deep connection to the area are why we must oppose energy development in the Thompson Divide. We need the Thompson Divide to continue to provide spectacular backcountry deer and elk habitat so visitors will hire our hunting guides and outfitting businesses. We need its cool, clean water for agriculture and area fisheries, and, in turn, our fishing guide and retail businesses. We need it to provide the beautiful vistas and recreation opportunities that draw the people who patronize our hotels, restaurants and retail shops, and who invest in our valley. Outdoor activities have driven our economy for years and will continue to do so if we retain the intact nature of places like the Thompson Divide.The Thompson Divide is not only integral to our businesses but is also part of the fabric of our lives. We have hunted, fished, hiked and camped there for generations. It is part of our families’ heritage to be able to enjoy the beautiful forested backdrop to the west of our valley and carry on the traditions of hunting every fall, fishing our local streams and taking summer drives up to Haystack or the old Coal Creek mines.Fortunately, there is a solution to development pressure in the Thompson Divide. Other communities across the West have faced similar situations and ultimately worked with lawmakers to draft legislation that protects the values dearest to the community while providing a fair and reasonable way for the leaseholders to end their efforts to develop. We ask that our leaders step up and draft similar legislation to help us permanently protect the Thompson Divide from incompatible energy development. We, too, will remain steadfast in our commitment to protecting the unique character of our valley and everything that makes it so great to live and recreate here. We also hope others will recognize the irreplaceable value of the Thompson Divide and work beside us to keep it like it is now.Mike and Kit Strang own the Strang Ranch in Carbondale. They have lived and ranched in the Roaring Fork Valley since 1961.Jeff Dysart has been the managing partner of Alpine Angling & Adventure Travel and Roaring Fork Anglers of Carbondale and Glenwood Springs for 15 years. He has a degree in fisheries biology from Colorado State University and has been fishing the Roaring Fork Valley for more than 35 years.Randy Melton and Bo Jones are the owners and operators of Avalanche Outfitters at Redstone Stables. They have been leading hunts into the Thompson Divide for the past six years.


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