Letter: Work together to protect land | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Work together to protect land

When I first moved to Carbondale in 1999, I set out with my hubby to ride the Lost Biker Loop in the Thompson Creek area west of town. We did this a couple of times, in fact, exploring lots, getting off track a little. It was unmarked and rarely traveled. We followed double-track roads and faint trails but didn’t see any sign of other people — sometimes only bear-paw prints or mountain lion tracks, sometimes a bear and once a blue heron taking flight from a marshy ravine. It was quiet, thick with full, round aspens and lush undergrowth. Despite being so close to population, the woods there have a wild feel to them. In the subsequent years, we would come to pedal Tall Pines, climb the crags along lower Thompson Creek and run to the upper reaches of Perham Creek.

No matter your choice of recreation, Thompson Divide stands as a refreshing example of how different user groups have come together for a common cause. If you walk into a town hall meeting with Thompson Divide on the agenda, you’ll see mountain bikers sitting next to ranchers, all-terrain-vehicle riders next to environmentalists and Republicans next to Democrats.

I think back to the Hidden Gems debate, in which some groups stood alone, even fighting against one another. It was a divisive time in a not-too-distant past that resulted in distrust between many different stakeholders. Where does that get us when it’s time to make big decisions about the management of our public lands? Where does that get us when it’s time to stand together against development that will alter the very qualities that define this valley?

Not to be mistaken, I heat my home, turn on my lights at night and drive a car. Yes, I use my share of energy extracted from natural resources. But I do not believe the benefits outweigh the negatives to allow natural-gas extraction in the Thompson Divide area. I need this land in which to explore, get lost, disconnect and feel whole again. But it’s bigger than you or me. We need to keep Thompson Divide “wild” for the health of our land, our food and water.

The Forest Service recently moved to protect Thompson Divide from future oil and gas leasing. This was a big step forward, but the issue is not yet resolved. We must now make the case to the Bureau of Land Management to withdraw dozens of illegally issued leases in Thompson Divide. If different user groups can continue to work together, our collective voice will be stronger.

Trina Ortega


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