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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.”