Congressman Scott Tipton released a draft bill in April addressing the ongoing lease conflicts in the Thompson Divide. The bill would allow companies with oil and gas leases in the divide to trade their holdings for similar plots elsewhere in Colorado. The bill is a good start, but does not provide permanent protection for the 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.”
Thompson Divide is a wildlife haven for big game habitat and is home to designated “outstanding waters” that contain healthy populations of native cutthroat trout. 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.
“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," said Baskfield.
Although the bill doesn't address protection for the Divide, TU and Back Country Hunters and Anglers appreciate the attention for the Thompson Divide and the momentum created by the draft.
“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 100, Glenwood Springs, CO 81601.