Strength in numbers |

Strength in numbers

What do cowboys, conservationists and a retired Pitkin County commissioner have in common?

They’ve joined forces to stop drilling on about 100,000 acres of public land outside of Carbondale. Oil and gas companies have already taken out 81 leases on the land, but have done little exploration. There’s also another 121,3000 acres in Thompson Creek that the coalition wants protected from the granting of more leases.

Indeed, the threat of gas drilling on pristine land makes for strange bedfellows. And in this case it’s called the Thompson Divide Coalition, an organization comprising hunters, ranchers, anglers, property owners, a conservation group and former county Commissioner Dorothea Farris.

Farris, who stepped down in January after term limits forced her out, apparently is not taking it easy these days. Instead, she chairs the Thompson Divide Coalition.

Farris recognizes that the coalition’s diversity is a strength in its cause.

“It’s not just the ‘crazy environmentalists’ that are concerned,” she told The Aspen Times this week. “It’s not just the tree-huggers like me.”

Coalition members bring different concerns to the table: Hunters worry game would be driven out by drilling. Anglers are fearful of the impact on water quality. Ranchers are concerned about the impacts on grazing grounds.

There is also the fundamental concern that the quality of life will be eroded by gas drilling in the Thompson Creek area.

The formation of this group is welcome news. And by sheer strength in numbers ” and diversity ” the Thompson Divide Coalition has the potential to make some noise in Washington.

Anyone wishing to get involved or learn more can e-mail Farris at

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