Thompson Divide is about balance | AspenTimes.com

Back to: Opinion

Thompson Divide is about balance

Energy development is a critical part of the Western Slope's economy. It supports jobs and economic activity, as do other industries like outdoor recreation, farming, ranching and tourism, all of which rely on the land. They form a sustainable, diversified base for our economy, with each playing a critical part.

But a diversified economy can't exist without balance. It requires consideration for the long-term effects of things we do right now. And it's with that principle in mind that we express our support for efforts to find a balanced solution to protect Thompson Divide.

The Divide sits on the western edge of the White River National Forest, the most heavily recreated forest in the nation — and for good reason. Locals and travelers from near and far enjoy all forms of recreation, from mountain-biking to climbing to cross-country skiing.

Colorado's rich legacy of hunting and angling also has taken root in Thompson Divide. It is home to some of the most sought-after game-management units in the state and serves as a tributary to Gold Medal trout waters of the Roaring Fork River.

Farming and ranching also coexist with the recreation economy. Thompson Divide has been ranched for more than a century. It remains one of the strongest enclaves of traditional ranching culture in the West, generating $11 million in economic output for our community.

Thompson Divide is one of Colorado's special places. It has tremendous natural, historic, and yes, economic value — to the tune of $30 million in economic activity and 300 jobs. The livelihoods it supports, the awe it inspires. It is uniquely Colorado, and it is worthy of protection for future generations.

That is why we want to thank U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet for introducing legislation that would protect unleased minerals in the Thompson Divide area from future development. His work with the local community and current leaseholders has resulted in a middle-ground solution that strikes a sustainable balance.

His bill recognizes something we can all agree on: There are some places where oil-and-gas development should take place, and there are other places where it should not. We have to find a balance, and disruptive development that could do damage to livelihoods and the local economy just doesn't make sense in Thompson Divide.

The Western Slope is proud to do its part in producing homegrown American energy that powers our homes and businesses; but we also are equally proud and protective of places such as Thompson Divide that are not only a unique part of our natural heritage but support local economies, livelihoods and a way of life.

This is about balance. It's about recognizing our obligations today and to future generations. We believe that a middle-road solution like the one envisioned by Bennet and local communities strikes that balance, and we are proud to sign on as supporters of this very worthy cause.

Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, represents Senate District 5, which comprises Chaffee, Delta, Eagle, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Lake and Pitkin counties. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, represents House District 61, which includes Delta, Lake, Pitkin, Summit and Gunnison counties.