Udall moves to protect public lands from energy
U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., will co-sponsor legislation to set aside Thompson Divide from energy development, his office said Friday.
The Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act would allow leaseholders to exchange or relinquish their rights and withdraw unleased lands from mining or energy development.
Leaseholders also could donate their rights to conservation organizations.
The measure, already introduced by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., is “critical to ensure that Colorado’s balanced approach to energy development also respects our other job-creating industries while preserving the pristine public lands that form the foundation of our high quality of life,” Udall said in a statement.
The bill would affect about 183,000 federal acres north of McClure Pass and west of Carbondale.
More than 100,000 of those acres have been leased for energy development.
An economic analysis by Denver-based BBC research found that hunting, fishing, grazing and recreation activities in the Thompson Divide support nearly 300 jobs and generate $30 million a year.
Thompson Divide members said they welcomed Udall’s decision.
“Our entire business relies on grazing allotments in the Divide. But it’s not just us, it’s a whole host of ranchers, outfitters and small-business owners that rely on this area for their livelihoods,” said Tai Jacober, chief executive officer of Crystal River Meats, in a statement.
The West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association said it disagreed, but held no grudge.
Udall “is a supporter of western Colorado’s natural gas business and even recently showed support for (liquefied natural gas) exports — an effort that truly will help our community and economy,” Executive Director David Ludlam said. “When it comes to the Thompson Divide, all we can say is that reasonable folks can disagree on some issues and still work collaboratively where they find common ground.”