Bennet, Hickenlooper, Neguse Applaud Withdrawal to Protect Thompson Divide and Mt. Emmons

Department of the Interior’s Decision Will Protect Over 221,000 Acres of Public Lands on the Western Slope for the Next 20 Years

Denver — Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper alongside U.S. Representative Joe Neguse celebrated the U.S. Department of the Interior’s announcement of a 20-year mineral withdrawal in the Thompson Divide. The withdrawal will prohibit future oil and gas leasing and new mining in the region. The withdrawal will protect watersheds, important wildlife, such as the Colorado River cutthroat trout and Rocky Mountain elk, as well as the region’s outdoor recreation and agriculture economy.
 
“Coloradans fought for decades to protect the Thompson Divide and Mt. Emmons ,” said Bennet. “This announcement is a testament to the persistence of Colorado’s farmers, ranchers, hunters, anglers, recreationists, wildlife enthusiasts, and conservation groups, who were unrelenting in their work to protect the landscape we all love. Now, we need to pass the CORE Act to make this withdrawal permanent and protect this land for the next generation and generations to come.”
 
“The Thompson Divide is cherished by ranchers, hikers, hunters, and local residents,” said Hickenlooper. “Coloradans know what’s best to protect our cherished landscapes, and this announcement ensures that protection.”
 
“Today, we celebrate a big win for Colorado – and for our treasured public lands,” said Neguse. “For years, we’ve worked together with citizens, ranchers, and local leaders to protect the Thompson Divide, and I’m excited to see those efforts come to fruition. When President Biden designated Camp Hale as a national monument, he initiated a process that would protect the Thompson Divide from new mining and oil and gas development. Today’s announcement marks the beginning of a 20-year period in which nearly 225,000 acres in the Thompson Divide will be protected and preserved – an important milestone in our work to support Colorado’s wildlife habitats, lands and waters, clean air, outdoor recreation, and more. Communities across the state agree — this announcement delivers for the people of Colorado.”
 
“Public lands in the Thompson Divide are special and deserve preservation and protections. Our community has long supported a legislative solution to address conflicts that exist in the area, and we are grateful for Senator Bennet and Senator Hickenlooper’s leadership in protecting our public lands, water, wildlife, and recreation,” said Ingrid Wussow, Mayor, Glenwood Springs. 
 
''The Thompson Divide Coalition is thrilled with the Forest Service's recent announcement of the 20 year mineral withdrawal, it has been long coming and we're so glad that the hard work of the Coalition, local communities, and our elected officials has finally resulted in this important protection for the Divide,'' said Jason Sewell, 5th generation rancher and President, Thompson Divide Coalition. ''We have worked for almost two decades to secure meaningful protection for the Divide, with ranchers, hunters, anglers, mountain bikers, off road vehicle users, and environmentalists coming together in an unlikely alliance to preserve the current uses of these lands. While we will continue to advocate for permanent protections for the Thompson Divide as afforded in the CORE Act, we could not be more thrilled to know that this landscape will continue for the next 20 years to provide the recreational opportunities, jobs, and wildlife habitat that it has for generations.''
 
“This withdrawal is the culmination of a 17 year grassroots effort and is fantastic news for our community. It will protect the Thompson Divide which is so important to our valley. This withdrawal will preserve the grazing so vital to our ranches. It will save our wildlife from additional pressures. It will protect the water supply for our towns and ranches and this withdrawal will protect the beauty of this area that is so vital to our recreation economy,” said Bill Fales, Carbondale rancher. “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our senators, especially Senator Bennet, who has worked on this for so long and to Senator Hickenlooper and Congressman Neguse for advancing the legislation so far. While we celebrate this milestone, we also look forward to the day when we can achieve permanent protection for the Thompson Divide.”
 
“This is a historic moment for our local communities, which have been working so hard for so many years to protect the Thompson Divide. We are incredibly grateful for Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper, President Biden and the dedicated local BLM and Forest Service staff for listening to the multitude of voices who have consistently called for the protection of this beloved, one-of-a-kind swath of wild lands, an area crucial for wildlife, ranching, recreation, and community in western Colorado,” said Will Roush, Executive Director, Wilderness Workshop.
 
“Senator Bennet and his team have been relentless in pursuing Crested Butte’s top long-term goal, protection of the Red Lady also known as Mt. Emmons,” said Ian Billick, Mayor, Crested Butte. “This 20 year mineral withdrawal is a major achievement on the path to permanent protection.” 
 
“We’ve worked for nearly five decades to protect the headwaters of the Gunnison River and the area surrounding Mt. Emmons from mining development that would impair our water quality, wildlife populations, and way of life. Secretary Haaland’s mineral withdrawal marks an incredible moment for our valley and is a critical step in protecting our drinking water supply and community character,” said Julie Nania, Red Lady Program Director, High Country Conservation Advocates. “We are incredibly grateful to our local governments and state representatives- in particular Senator Bennet- who have helped make this dream a reality.”
 
“The Town of Carbondale has been pursuing protection of the Thompson Divide for over a decade. We are glad to see our headwaters and outdoor recreational assets conserved for the next twenty years, and we look forward to the permanent protection of this incredible landscape through the CORE Act,” said Ben Bohmfalk, Mayor, Carbondale.

"We thank Senator Bennet and his staff for their long and collaborative work with many diverse stakeholders, said Mike Kendrick, President, Climax Molybdenum Co. "As an organization with deep roots and history in the region, Climax Molybdenum appreciates the Senator’s vision and support for the full resolution of all major pending issues in Gunnison County, including the administrative mineral withdrawal, and the land exchange that will help facilitate our company's reclamation efforts."
 
“Gunnison County is thankful for the dedicated work of Senator Bennet to move forward long term protections for the Thompson Divide and Mount Emmons areas in northern Gunnison County. These treasured public lands have long anchored local economies by supporting agricultural operations, recreation and sporting opportunities. By using the tool of administrative withdrawal, we will now have protections that will allow us the time and space to continue our work toward the goal of permanent withdrawal which has been a goal of our community for close to 50 years.” said Jonathan Houck, Commissioner, Gunnison County.
 
“Pitkin County and the Roaring Fork Valley community have been strongly supportive of conservation efforts on the important public lands in the Thompson Divide for well over a decade.  We’re thrilled to celebrate the protection of this incredible landscape for the next 20 years, and we will continue to advocate for its permanent protection through the CORE Act,” said Greg Poschman, Commissioner, Pitkin County. 
 
”Gunnison Energy (“GEC”) appreciates the efforts of Senator Bennet’s office and the Thompson Divide Coalition to work with GEC and other stakeholders to determine appropriate boundaries for lands which might be included for protection pursuant to the administrative withdrawal process.  This work will result in protection of large areas of the Thompson Divide but will exclude certain areas which have existing natural gas production and valid operating rights.  For these reasons, GEC supports the administrative withdrawal process and the responsible protection of the lands and rights identified through this process,” said Brad Robinson, Director, Gunnison Energy LLC.
 
Bennet first introduced the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act in 2013 after years of working with local governments, hunters, anglers, and ranchers to identify a middle ground solution to protect the landscape. The bill was eventually included in Bennet, Hickenlooper, and Neguse’s Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act. Mt. Emmons, near Crested Butte, was later included after Bennet worked with the local community and Mount Emmons Mining Company to expand protections into the area, helping to resolve one of the longest standing mining disputes in the nation. The delegation letter on this proposed withdrawal sent in February 2024 also asked for the Forest Service to complete a formal land exchange between the USFS and the Mount Emmons Mining Company. 
 
In August 2022, Bennet led members of the Colorado Congressional delegation in asking the President to initiate a 20-year administrative withdrawal for the Thompson Divide area. President Biden first announced plans to begin withdrawal during his October 2022 visit to designate Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument. The Bureau of Land Management later received over 60,000 comments, overwhelmingly in support of the decision.
 
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