Communities stand ‘unified’ for Thompson Divide |

Communities stand ‘unified’ for Thompson Divide

A little over a year ago, some 400 citizens hailing from Rifle to Aspen gathered in Carbondale and spoke with one voice: Protect the Thompson Divide.

Ranchers, sportsmen, conservationists, students and recreationalists all spoke of their passion for the divide and of its importance to the economic vitality of our region. While many also acknowledged the importance of natural gas, there was consensus on a simple point: There are the right places to drill, and the wrong places to drill. The citizens gathered in Carbondale that night made clear that they share Gov. Hickenlooper’s view that the Thompson Divide is a “Colorado Crown Jewel,” and that drilling there would be a terrible mistake.

We know the commitment on display that night — people overflowing from Town Hall into the night air, willing to wait in the cold for a chance to be heard — has not flagged one bit. Indeed, the community’s dedication to this cause is visible to us every day in the “Unified for Thompson Divide” signs that grace so many local businesses, lawns and fields.

As local elected officials, we’ve heard you loud and clear, and our jurisdictions have done everything we can to make the community’s vision for this pristine area a reality. But local government is not in the driver’s seat when it comes to the Thompson Divide: the federal Bureau of Land Management is.

BLM officials were there in Carbondale last year, and they heard your calls for protecting the Thompson Divide, too. And while they have taken a cautious approach to this issue — missing, in our view, a clear opportunity to simply let existing oil and gas leases in the divide expire last year — they have agreed with us on a crucial point: The leases in the Thompson Divide were issued illegally, and are therefore subject to cancellation.

Let us say that again: BLM agrees that the existing leases in the Thompson Divide were issued illegally, and that it, the BLM, has the power to cancel them. Now it’s up to you, the public, to determine if BLM will do so. BLM announced last week that it will be holding three meetings this month to hear from the public about these illegal leases: on April 15 from 4-7 p.m. at the Glenwood Springs Community Center; on April 16 from 4-7 p.m. at Carbondale Town Hall; and on April 17 from 3-6 p.m. at the Pitkin County Library in Aspen.

Over the last several years, local communities across Colorado have risen up and convinced BLM to withdraw proposals to lease oil and gas in their areas. That time has now come for the Roaring Fork Valley. We have every reason to believe that BLM is serious when it says it will take a hard look at canceling these leases. But for that to happen, our communities will have to turn out like they never have before. This month we have three chances to show BLM that the spirit so forcefully evident in Carbondale a year ago is here to stay. Let’s make sure we succeed.

Leo McKinney, mayor

city of Glenwood Springs

Rob Ittner, chair

Pitkin County BOCC

Stacey Bernot, mayor

town of Carbondale

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