Letter: Thanks Forest Service; Time to step it up, BLM

I’d like to extend a huge thank-you to the U.S. Forest Service for their long-term commitment to protecting Thompson Divide. Their new oil and gas leasing plan is an amazing step forward and a well-earned victory for all of the Thompson Divide advocates in and out of the Roaring Fork Valley. This new plan is paramount not only because it protects large portions of Thompson Divide, but also because it honors and supports what our community has been saying in unanimity: Thompson Divide is not an appropriate place for industrial gas development. What’s even better is that the plan goes above and beyond preventing new leasing opportunities for the next 15 to 20 years; it also places No Surface Occupancy stipulations on the respective roadless areas. This means that even if a gas lease overlaps with a roadless area, construction of roads or well pads is prohibited, effectively protecting the wildlife, the watersheds and the ecological integrity of Thompson Divide.

While this plan is an absolute milestone, there are still 65 illegally issued leases, 25 of which are within Thompson Divide. The Bureau of Land Management is ultimately responsible for analyzing and deciding the fate of the existing leases. With a huge kudos to the Forest Service, I would encourage the BLM, our elected leaders and industry representatives to follow suit and serve the interests of the local community and environment by putting this issue to bed. Void the leases.

Annie Henderson

Co-founder, Upper Colorado Private Boaters Association