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Pitkin County To BLM: Cancel Thompson Divide Leases

Marci Krivonen

Pitkin County is reiterating its opposition to drilling in the Thompson Divide area through a letter to the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM is taking comments on its review of 65 oil and gas leases that stretch over the White River National Forest. Twenty-five of those leases are in the Thompson Divide, southwest of Carbondale.

Pitkin County’s focus is on the leases that overlap the County and the Thompson Divide. Assistant County Attorney Chris Seldin says the area is too pristine for energy development.

"Because the basis for our economy here is so grounded in tourism and recreation, we don’t view oil and gas development as a compatible use of the national forest in this place, in the Thompson Divide and so we ask BLM to cancel the leases."

Seldin helped draft the letter and presented it to county commissioners yesterday, who approved it with a few suggestions. Commissioner Rob Ittner says there’s clear consensus on how to treat the Thompson Divide leases.

"The support comes across political party lines, the support comes across various user groups. (There’s) very widely, almost unanamous support within our community, Pitkin County and the Roaring Fork Valley, is in favor of canceling these leases."

The total package of leases are located in Pitkin, Garfield and Mesa counties and most are undeveloped. The BLM held three public scoping meetings in the Roaring Fork Valley, where many were in favor of canceling the leases. A fourth meeting in DeBeque also attracted a large crowd, where the majority of attendees favored keeping the leases. The BLM is taking public comment until May 16th.

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