TU, sportsmen win victory on Thompson Divide


Nov. 17, 2016


Tyler Baskfield, 720-530-9896, tbaskfield@tu.org

Randy Scholfield, TU communications, 720-375-3961, rscholfield@tu.org

Trout Unlimited, sportsmen win victory on Thompson Divide

BLMs final leasing plan offers protection for critical fish, wildlife habitat

Denver, CO Trout Unlimited and sportsmen and women today praised the decision by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to remove the immediate threat of oil and gas drilling in Colorados Thompson Divide, a spectacular backcountry area prized for its fish and wildlife resources. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Governor John Hickenlooper and BLM Director Neil Kornze announced the decision at a joint press conference this morning at the Colorado State Capitol.

Trout Unlimited and the Sportsmen for the Thompson Divide Coalition have been working with hunters and anglers, the oil and gas industry and the Roaring Fork Valley community for nearly a decade to develop an equitable solution concerning 65 contested oil and gas leases in and around the Thompson Divide within the White River National Forest, just south of the Roaring Fork Valley.

The BLM decision will cancel 25 leases within the Thompson Divide, but will allow 40 oil and gas leases outside of the Thompson Divide to remain. These leases tend to be closer to existing oil and gas infrastructure.

The pristine 221,500 acres of federal land in Pitkin, Garfield and Mesa counties known as the Thompson Divide contain some of the most productive habitat for big game, cutthroat trout and numerous other native species. The area is used by more than 10,000 resident and nonresident big game hunters every year and serves as the headwaters to some of Colorados most popular and prolific fisheries including the Roaring Fork, North Fork of the Gunnison and Crystal rivers.

This incredible slice of Colorados backcountry is an economic engine for local communities, due to its popularity with hunters, anglers and outdoor recreationists. The Thompson Divide area produces more than $30 million a year in economic output and provides more than 300 jobs to the Roaring Fork Valley.

This decision demonstrates how influential a united sportsmens community can be in ensuring future access to healthy habitat and strong fishing and hunting opportunities, said Steve Kandell, director of Trout Unlimiteds Sportsmens Conservation Project. Sportsmen joined with ranchers, local businesses, environmentalists, mountain bikers, and off-highway vehicle users to develop a local solution that balances energy development with habitat protection. Sportsmen, local economies and residents will benefit from this decision.

Although the leases within the Thompson Divide were canceled, there is still more work to be done to ensure permanent protection of its incredible wildlife and water resources. Congress needs to pass legislation that secures permanent protection for the Thompson Divide to remove the possibility of this land being leased by oil and gas companies in the future.

TU and its membership want to ensure we are not battling for the future of this great place again, said Tyler Baskfield, TUs Colorado sportsmens coordinator. TU will continue to work with the Thompson Divide Coalition, elected officials such as Sen. Bennet, local businesses, land management agencies and all of the other voices to make sure permanent protection comes to fruition. We want sportsmen to be secure in the fact that the Thompson Divide will be providing outdoor recreation opportunities for generations to come.

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Trout Unlimited is a non-profit organization with more than 150,000 members nationwide dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North Americas coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. TU has more than 10,000 members and 24 chapters in Colorado.