The Thompson Divide, Colorado

Oct 9, 2015
A blue-bird Colorado day and the last of the gold leaves in the Thompson Divide were a treat from the air for Trout Unlimited, Thompson Divide Coalition and 5280 Magazine. The 221,500-acre Thompson Divide is home to critical wildlife habitat for big game, rare native trout and animals like lynx, moose and mountain lion. This backcountry haven is the lifeblood of surrounding communities dependent on the tourism of sportsmen, skiers, motorized recreationists, and it provides critical grazing land to support the local ranching industry. A 2013 economic analysis found that the Thompson Divide supports nearly 300 jobs and $30 million a year in economic value. In December 2014, the Forest Service released an oil and gas leasing plan that closed much of the Thompson Divide to future leasing, and strengthened protections for roadless areas on the White River National Forest. The plan will dictate how oil and gas is developed on the forest for the next 20 years. In July 2015, the BLM announced its updated Resource Management Plan for the Colorado River Valley Field Office, which protects some of the BLM portions of Thompson Creek as Lands with Wilderness Characteristics. SG has proposed trading about 30,000 acres of existing leases in the Thompson Divide for proposed leases covering about 30,000 acres on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests, west of McClure Pass. Ursa wants to trade some 12,000 acres of Thompson Divide leases for a similar amount of proposed leases southeast of Rangely in Rio Blanco County. The current industry proposal doesn't offer anything in terms of conservation for the North Fork Valley, but citizens are hopeful that they can use this as an opportunity to work with elected officials to get some lasting protections for sensitive public lands, and better practices for the drilling that does occur in the area.