EcoFlight flew students from Colorado University at Boulder as they rounded out their studies on natural gas and community leadership. We conducted overflights of the Thompson Divide area to see where drilling is proposed and then over energy development near Rifle, where drilling has occurred.
Ranked as one of the four most biologically diverse areas in Colorado and rising 3,500 feet above the Colorado River and the Grand Valley, the dramatic Roan Plateau is surrounded by a sea of drill rigs and bulldozed roads below. Already over half of the Roan Plateau Planning Area is either owned outright or leased by oil and gas companies. Private lands are subject to split estate rights and intensive oil and gas development is taking place at the base and on the top of the plateau.
Much of the land west of the Crystal River and north of McClure Pass has already been leased to natural gas drilling and there are upwards of 70 gas drilling leases in the Thompson Divide area, including land bordering ranches on the outskirts of Pitkin County near Carbondale.
The Thompson Divide Coalition, an advocacy group aiming to block drilling on the local leases, is working to protect the whole area from oil and gas exploration and production and to permanently withdraw the Thompson Divide area from availability for future leasing. On June 9th 2011, an announcement was made that Houston-based SG Interests is seeking to "unitize" 18 natural gas leases in the Thompson Divide area. The proposal, which includes much of the headwaters of Thompson Creek, would split the Thompson Divide in two and increase the threat of natural gas development from Coal Basin to the Sunlight Ski Area.