Letter: Protecting the Divide
The PI’s July 25th article entitled, “Here’s why Tipton’s public lands bill doesn’t include the Thompson Divide,” suggests that Garfield County’s position on the CORE Act has been unclear. In fact, Commissioners clarified their position earlier in July by signing a letter that clearly supports the “fair and balanced solution” proposed for the Thompson Divide in the CORE Act. Commissioner John Martin later told the press that the letter was “merely reiterating what he saw as unwavering support among commissioners for protecting the divide.”
Since the CORE Act was introduced, Representative Tipton’s claimed reasoning for not supporting the bill’s protections for Thompson Divide has been Garfield County’s lack of support. Now that Garfield County has reaffirmed support for the Thompson Divide provisions in the CORE Act, Representative Tipton should support those provisions too.
The Post Independent article also references concerns raised by grazers about the CORE Act. As a rancher who has been involved in efforts to protect Thompson Divide since the beginning, and who relies on federal grazing permits in the Divide to make a living, I can tell you that these concerns don’t make sense. West slope ranchers worked hand-in-hand with Senator Bennet and former Congressman Salazar to draw-up the Thompson Divide language specifically to protect local ranches and our federal permits from industry speculation. The CORE Act does not threaten our grazing rights—it protects them.
Congressman Tipton must know this, because he has used the same language in his own legislation. He uses it in his draft of the REC Act to protect Naturita Canyon and the Curecanti National Recreation Area, and states outright on his website that the legislation “will not affect” grazing. And since Congressman Tipton sponsored and passed a bill with that same legislative language in the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act in 2014, we’ve seen proof that these protections work. Five years later, ranchers and their public land grazing rights in the area have been unaffected.
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I can’t over emphasize how the ranching community in and around the Thompson Divide has driven efforts to protect the area. We’ve led the charge since the threat of new oil and gas development became real to our community. The legislators and staffers who have come to visit the Divide know that the best way to see it is on horseback, and cattlemen have consistently guided the way. We’ve asked for a permanent leasing withdrawal to protect the long-term investments we’ve made in our operations, and to ensure the viability of local ranches into the future because ranching is the backbone of our community, our culture, and our history.
Lastly, I understand that there is some lingering sensitivity around the way the CORE Act was introduced. But as someone whose livelihood depends on the management of public lands in the Thompson Divide, I ask you, Representative Tipton, to set that frustration aside, and work with Senator Bennet, Representative Neguse, and Senator Gardner to permanently protect the Divide for the benefit of people and communities that rely on this landscape. It’s simple: we have been unified on this solution for a decade now. Please stop confusing the issue and just help us to finally get it done.
Marj Perry, Carbondale
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