Letter: Conserve Thompson Divide | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Conserve Thompson Divide

“Our lives begin and end the day we become silent about things that matter.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This is a watershed moment for the Roaring Fork Valley, a point in time after which two distinct paths will not intersect again. Our community is made up of the families of original homesteaders and newcomers, like my family, who choose to live here in proximity to the same precious resources and open space that drew the ranchers who first settled here. As we paddle down river together in hopes of preserving this pristine watershed, we are nearing a major confluence. Our friends in the Thompson Divide Coalition are urging us to pull our boats into the eddy before we race on to the whitewater below.

It’s a sunny day, a great day to circle up with friends and neighbors on the riverbank. We come from a variety of backgrounds. We need a moment to pause so we can harmonize about the things that matter most: clean water, clean air and a clear path to a sustainable future. All of these things are at risk should oil and gas development ensue in Thompson Divide. If we stick together on “river right,” we can preserve these valuable resources. On this path, we can protect and promote a way of life that will bring health and vitality to the community for years to come.

The path down “river left” is not an easy passage. Those with extraction interests in our upper watershed would shortsightedly gamble on the future of our diversified economy and rural heritage in the hope they might find a finite amount of fuel. Industry is looking to paddle down this path despite strong evidence that the formation at the headwaters of our valley contains very little, if any, natural gas.

We know what the proposed “exploration” will mean for our watershed. Thousands of truck trips through Glenwood Springs would reduce our quality of life. These truck trips represent a reduction in air quality, an increase in noise and traffic, and a more dangerous traffic pattern.

Let’s get together to celebrate this journey down the river of life together. Let’s refresh one another about the importance of clean water and clean air to our jobs and livelihoods. Let’s resolve to speak out in defense of those things that mean so much to our lives, never doubting “that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

During the winter months, I spend my days hiking with my toddler on Williams Peak and exploring the vast network of trails that make up Thompson Divide. This time I spend with my son provides an opportunity to instill in him a deep appreciation for nature and what we are leaving behind.

As a mother and resident of the Four Mile area (the area most likely to be impacted negatively by drilling in Thompson Divide), I support the efforts of a broad-based coalition of folks, from all walks of life, working together to conserve Thompson Divide for the long term.

I believe conserving Thompson Divide is the right thing to do not only from a personal perspective but because of what the land means to our economy and the countless Coloradans who rely on it for their livelihoods.

Recreation within Thompson Divide supports 138 jobs and generates a total economic value of $12.6 million for our local communities. Local shop owners from Grand Avenue in Glenwood to Main Street in Aspen all benefit from skiers, like I am, enjoying and recreating on this pristine landscape.

But all of that could be at risk if Houston-based oil and gas companies get their way. For more than 10 years, these companies have let leases they hold on Thompson Divide lie idle. And now, at the 11th hour, they’re asking, again, for more time.

It’s time to let those leases expire. There are just some places that aren’t appropriate for development, and Thompson Divide is one of those places. Instead of giving in to the oil and gas companies’ request, it’s time for us to focus on what we’re leaving behind.

Mandy Rooks

Glenwood Springs

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