Sportsmen call for permanent protection for Thompson Divide in Rep. Tipton draft legislation

April 13, 2016

For Immediate Release

Contact: Tim Brass, (651) 206-4669

Shane Cross,, (307) 359-3080

Tyler Baskfield,, (720) 530-9896

Sportsmen for Thompson Divide Issues Statement on Congressman Tiptons Thompson Divide Draft Legislation

Calls for permanent protection for the valuable fish and wildlife area

(Glenwood Springs)–The Thompson Divide has long been recognized by sportsmen for its vast tracts of intact big game habitat and its formally designated outstanding waters that are home to healthy populations of native cutthroat trout.

Rep. Scott Tipton recently released draft legislation that addresses ongoing lease conflicts in the Thompson Divide by proposing a lease exchange for new leases in Delta and Rio Blanco counties. Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and Trout Unlimited are heartened to see the momentum continue to grow for a long-term management solution for the Thompson Divide through this draft legislation. The draft, however, fails to address significant issues that sportsmen and women have been asking our leaders to address for over a decade.

The draft bill does not provide permanent protection for the Thompson Divide. Permanent protection of the Thompson Divide is the most critical issue for sportsmen and anglers that use the area, said Tyler Baskfield, Colorado Sportsman Coordinator for Trout Unlimited. While we are open to a legislative solution to the lease conflicts, we cannot support a proposal that would lead to impacts in other valuable habitat and leave the Thompson Divide susceptible to being leased again in 15 years.

While some of the acreage being proposed for new leases is in areas with relatively low fish and wildlife values compared to the Thompson Divide, other acreage contains important big game hunting habitat and cutthroat trout streams. The draft bill does not address potential protections for this habitat. According to Baskfield, Ultimately, we might be able to support an exchange into the proposed areas so long as sportsmen and anglers are comfortable with protections on the new leases and the areas outside the leases that would be permanently protected. We have not yet had the opportunity to weigh in on the draft bill but are hopeful that Congressmen Tipton will be receptive to our concerns.

The draft bill contains language that overreaches the scope of a lease exchange and could be damaging to sportsmen and angler interests in the future.

Section 5 of the draft bill appears to limit the scope of the BLMs authority to correct leasing errors that could lead to adverse impacts on fish and wildlife habitat, said Shane Cross, Western Energy Counsel for Trout Unlimited. We dont think it is wise to attempt to change existing laws and regulations governing widespread oil and gas leasing in a localized exchange bill.

This draft bill comes after years of work from Sen. Michael Bennet and the respective land management agencies to find a solution for long-term management of area that protects and enhances the fish and wildlife habitat, while also allowing for responsible energy development in the region.

While Congressman Tipton’s draft legislation is not yet a viable solution, we appreciate his attention to the Thompson Divide area and look forward to working with him and other stakeholders to include language that will prioritize the important fish and wildlife values of the Thompson Divide and address other conservation opportunities that sportsmen and women have been advocating for with local leaders to promote balance and secure meaningful, lasting safeguards, said Tim Brass, State Policy Manager for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.

The legislation will be discussed at a special meeting of the Garfield County Board of Commissioners Wednesday, April 13 at 2 p.m. The meeting will take place at 108 8th Street, Suite 2005, Glenwood Springs, CO 81601.

For more information, go to Sportsmen for Thompson Divide website.

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Trout Unlimited is a non-profit organization with 147,000 members nationwide dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North Americas coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. Colorado Trout Unlimited has 24 chapters and more than 10,000 members in the state.