Colorado Trout Unlimited praised the decisions announced by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today on the Thompson Divide and the Roan Plateau. The BLM decisions protect prime backcountry fish and wildlife habitats in both areas from oil and gas development, while allowing development to proceed on other leases that are closer to existing oil and gas infrastructure. On the Thompson Divide, the BLM will cancel leases and remove the immediate threat of oil and gas drilling in Colorado’s Thompson Divide, a spectacular backcountry area prized for its fish and wildlife resources. The BLM's Roan Plateau plan, which will guide management for the next 20 years, closes the majority of the top of the Plateau to oil and gas leasing, including the Trapper and Northwater Creek watersheds, areas that encompass the best native cutthroat trout habitat on the Roan. The plan provides additional protections for approved leasing areas and recognizes the value of wildlife corridors connecting to winter range at the base of the Roan.
The Roan Plateau is one of Colorado's last best places. It harbors a remarkable diveristy of plant and animal life, including outstanding big game habitat and multiple small streams that harbor genetically pure Colorado River cutthroat trout—a species found in less than 10 percent of its historic range. Colorado TU and the Grand Valley Anglers chapter have spent more than 20 years conducting on-the-ground projects to protect and improve habitat for the Roan's unique native fish.
“The BLM’s Roan plan recognizes that some natural areas of the Roan are too special and valuable to drill, while other areas can be responsibly developed to help meet our energy needs,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “It is the result of good faith dialogue among industry, agencies and conservationists about finding balance and should serve as a model for how BLM can look at resource values on a landscape scale to determine where development should—and should not—take place.”
On the Thompson Divide, the BLM decision will cancel 25 leases while allowing 40 other oil and gas leases outside of the Thompson Divide to remain. These retained 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 Colorado’s most popular and prolific fisheries including the Roaring Fork, North Fork of the Gunnison and Crystal rivers.
“This decision demonstrates how influential a united sportsmen’s community can be in ensuring future access to healthy habitat and strong fishing and hunting opportunities,” said Steve Kandell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s 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.”