U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell joined Gov. John Hickenlooper at the state capitol Thursday to announce a decision that protects the Thompson Divide, but leaves other areas open to drilling.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) terminated 25 leases in the Thompson Divide and closed the majority of that area to future oil and gas exploration. Gov. Hickenlooper said this decision protects one of Colorado’s “sacred places.”
“As our population grows, we’re not going to get a second chance to set aside these most important places, and I think Thompson Divide rode right to the top as a place that we want to make sure that it is protected,” Hickenlooper said.
The BLM decision addresses 65 oil and gas leases in the White River National Forest.
Wilderness Workshop, Conservation Colorado and other environmental groups applauded the preservation of Thompson Divide, but said the resolution does not do enough to protect other areas, including Battlement Mesa and Mamm Peak.
Secretary Jewell said the BLM has found a compromise that reflects Colorado’s values.
“This is a state that understands the ability to have balance between the extraction of our resources and the preservation of those resources,” Jewell said. “This is a state that takes the long view.”
Representatives from the oil and gas industry issued statements calling the decision “punitive.” David Ludlam of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association said his organization will work with the incoming Trump administration to determine the next steps.