Bennet Asks Coloradans to Comment on Draft Thompson Divide Bill

Draft Bill Prepared at Request of Ranchers, Local Governments, Follows Meetings with Stakeholders

August 2, 2012

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet is asking for Coloradans’ feedback on his website on a draft bill for the management of Thompson Divide. 

Bennet’s draft bill offers a middle ground solution to the ongoing conversation about Thompson Divide’s future. It presents an option that would withdraw unleased public minerals in the area from future oil and gas development while also preserving existing private property rights for current leaseholders. The bill also creates an opportunity for existing leases to be retired should they be donated or sold by willing owners. The legislation was drafted at the request of local governments and followinga series of conversations Bennet held with leaseholders, elected officials and community leaders.

“We’ve had several productive conversations with local residents, ranchers, advocacy groups and leaseholders that have been focused on finding a way forward that works for everyone involved,” Bennet said. “This draft bill is a result of those conversations. It’s a start, and now listening to the input from Coloradans is critical. I look forward to seeing community members’ comments and to continuing to work closely with them.”

Garfield County Commissioner John Martin said, “We support legislative initiatives to protect these special areas from energy development in a manner that respects existing rights of leaseholders.”

Glenwood Springs City CouncilorLeo McKinney said, “Glenwood Springs City Council has twice shown support for preserving the Thompson Divide.”

Carbondale Mayor Stacey Bernot said, “Thompson Divide is a critical area that warrants further collaboration and thoughtful long term solutions for everyone's future. We support legislative measures that will enable protection of this pristine habitat.”

Pitkin County Commissioner George Newman said, “On behalf of the Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners, we applaud and support Senator Bennet's leadership in his draft legislation to protect the Thompson Divide area from future oil and gas exploration on public lands due to its unique and pristine environment."

Hap Channell, Gunnison County Board of Commissioners chairman, said, “In my opinion the Thompson Divide bill offers reasonable, balanced protection and assurance to the resource extraction industry, as well as to ranching, wildlife and tourism interests on public lands within Gunnison County.”

The Thompson Divide, a 221,000-acre parcel of public land is mostly under the surface jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service and is located predominantly in Colorado’s Pitkin, Gunnison and Garfield Counties. Bennet is seeking input on the bill and how the area can be effectively managed to protect the multiple uses and economic interests that support the local community.

Community members can read the draft bill, read letters of support from local governments and submit their comments on Bennet’s website at bennet.senate.gov/thompsondivide.

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