Letter: Commissioners’ reversal on Divide undermines will of their constituents | PostIndependent.com

Letter: Commissioners’ reversal on Divide undermines will of their constituents

The Garfield County commissioners’ reversal of their decade-long support for a permanent oil and gas withdrawal in the Thompson Divide is disheartening and confusing. Protecting Thompson Divide has been a non-partisan issue that has unified our entire community. We’ve all worked together to protect the current uses that are so important to our way of life. 

Ranchers, farmers, recreationists, local governments and businesses, and yes, environmentalists have recognized the tremendous value the Divide holds for our economy and livelihoods. It provides not only critical summer grazing for ranchers, but also important wildlife habitat, incredible hunting, recreational opportunities, and striking natural beauty. Garfield County’s citizens have spoken-up time and again that oil and gas development in this area is not appropriate or compatible with our local economy — an opinion that has been backed up by the Forest Service and the BLM.

 I’ve relied on summer grazing for my cattle in the Divide for 45 years. This area spans dozens of watersheds, provides domestic and agricultural water in the Crystal, Roaring Fork, and Colorado river valleys, and supports 8,000 acres of cropland in the North Fork Valley — one of the most productive organic farming regions in the nation. People, fisheries, livestock and the area’s wildlife rely on the clean water flowing from the Divide. We live in a high rent district and our economic success is dependent on being able to produce high-quality, natural beef for an ever growing niche market. We depend on these public lands where oil and gas drilling is limited, and ecosystems are undisturbed. 

Our best chance to permanently protect the Divide is the CORE Act, recently introduced by Senator Michael Bennet and Congressman Joe Neguse. The commissioners’ reversal of their decade of support for protecting the Divide undermines the will of their constituents. As a rancher, I have worked alongside mountain bikers, business owners and elected officials to protect this special place and I can only hope that the Garfield commissioners will re-join this broad and diverse coalition. 

Bill Fales

Cold Mountain Ranch, Carbondale

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