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April 2, 2019 Phone: 703.568.8781
CORE Act is one step closer to passage with Congressional Hearing
Thompson Divide Coalition travels to Washington DC to show support for the CORE Act in Congress
The Thompson Divide Coalition celebrated as the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Economy Act (CORE Act) took a significant step towards passage today, with a hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee. The CORE Act includes protections for nearly 200,000 acres in the Thompson Divide from future oil and gas development with a permanent mineral withdrawal.
Along with county commissioners and other elected officials, a quartet of advocates for the Thompson Divide traveled to Washington D.C. to support its provisions in the CORE Act. Current and former Carbondale mayors Dan Richardson and Stacey Bernot, Executive Director of Roaring Fork Mountain Biking Association, Mike Pritchard, and Bill Fales, owner of Cold Mountain Ranch, took time away from their jobs to continue their decade long work to secure congressional protection for the Thompson Divide.
“Our family has been running a ranch in the Crystal River Valley for 95 years,” said Fales. “I travelled to Washington today to work to ensure the future of our ranch and our community. Dozens of local ranches rely on federal lands in the Thompson Divide for operational viability. These ranches are critical to our local economy. Here the cost to the community outweighs any potential benefit of drilling.”
Bernot added, “We have a history of extraction and we’ve been through the boom and the bust that goes with that. We now have an opportunity to create our own destiny and bring long-term, sustainable jobs to the area. We want to be able to preserve the Thompson Divide for our local economy and for the livelihoods the land supports. This is more than our backyard. It’s our home and our livelihoods.”
Colorado’s Thompson Divide has been under threat of development for oil and gas leasing for over a decade. Its 220,000 acres of backcountry, situated in America’s most heavily recreated National Forest, the White River, are home hunting units that generate over 20,000 big-game licenses each year; summer range for thriving ranching operations; and one of the largest and densest concentrations of roadless areas in the West. Surrounding communities depend heavily on agriculture and tourism, and independent economic analysis has shown that the Thompson Divide generates 300 jobs and $30 million each year in sustainable economic benefits.
The Thompson Divide Coalition has banded together a group of unlikely allies, including sportsmen, agriculturalists, recreationalists, and every affected county and municipality to protect existing uses in the Thompson Divide. Though the Coalition understands that domestic natural gas contributes to our economy and national security, gas development in the Thompson Divide will not discernibly impact national energy supplies, and is likely to extinguish more jobs than it creates.
Mike Pritchard noted, ”Instances where mountain bikers and ranchers are sitting at the same table, advocating for the same thing are few and far between, and this is one of those rare instances. Diversity is the bedrock of Colorado’s economy, and in the case of the Thompson Divide, both ranching and recreation are vitally important to the local economy. We may be strange bedfellows, but together we are stronger. ‘Unified for the Thompson Divide’ is not just a catchy rallying cry, it is our community.”
The Coalition has worked for over a decade to secure permanent legislative protection for the Thompson Divide. The CORE Act is the third time legislation has been introduced to do that.
“Rarely does one issue unify a community like the effort to protect the Thompson Divide over the last decade,” said Richardson. “The CORE Act would protect the Divide from industrialization while protecting the few valid existing rights that remain in the area. The bill is the culmination of years of work by a diverse and broad coalition of citizens and local elected officials.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FEBRUARY 12, 2019
Members of the Thompson Divide Coalition left Monday’s Garfield County Commission meeting scratching their heads, but undaunted by the sudden flip-flopping of the Commissioners’ on permanent withdrawal from inappropriate oil and gas leasing of the Thompson Divide.
For the past ten years, the Thompson Divide Coalition has worked alongside Garfield County Commissioners to find creative workable solutions to protect this landscape from inappropriate oil and gas drilling while protecting existing rights and leases. The Commissioners’ long history of support includes signed letters and resolutions supporting protection for the Thompson Divide from oil and gas leasing in 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015, and 2016. These include signed letters from the Commissioners in 2010 and 2015 specifically supporting permanent withdrawal for Garfield County’s portion of the Thompson Divide.
Earlier this month Senator Bennet introduced a bill that included permanent withdrawal of the Thompson Divide from future oil and gas leasing (S. 241) – something that the Coalition has been working towards for over a decade. “We are at the finish line, with federal legislation introduced in both houses of Congress that would withdraw Thompson Divide from leasing and protect this special landscape permanently. That’s a goal we’ve been working to achieve for over ten years,” said longtime TDC Board Member and Thompson Divide rancher Judy Fox Perry. “This is the type of legislation that Garfield County specifically asked for just a few years ago.”
“The Commissioners’ change in position today is inconsistent with resolutions the exact same commissioners have endorsed in the past. For whatever reason, the Commissioners decided to turn their backs on their past support and reverse course,” said Curtis Kaufman, President of the Thompson Divide Coalition. “We’re confused, but undaunted. The Commissioners’ constituents, including the communities within Garfield County most impacted, have been clear that they want the Divide protected from future oil and gas leasing.”
“No one issue has galvanized our community like protection of Thompson Divide,” said Carbondale Mayor Dan Richardson. “Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, Garfield County, Pitkin County, and Gunnison County have all advocated for legislation to protect the area beginning back in 2009 and continuing over the years. I know the Carbondale community is as committed as ever to continue in this effort. We stand with the Thompson Divide Coalition and all of the diverse voices who have long fought for protection of this area. We are grateful for the continued leadership legislators in D.C. have shown introducing this bill. Permanent protection for the Divide is something we support, and Bennet’s bill would do that.”
“For five generations, my family has farmed and ranched our property, which lies within the public land that bears my family name: the Thompson Divide,” said Jason Sewell, fifth generation rancher on the Divide. “Last fall, 25 of the leases that were improperly sold in the area were officially canceled. This year, we have a chance, with Senator Bennet’s help, to protect the Divide for its current uses forever and ensure that inappropriate leasing doesn’t pave the way for industrial development. Let’s get this done.”