Protection for Thompson Divide: No Mineral Extraction Allowed

The Biden administration made a significant decision on Wednesday regarding the Thompson Divide, an area covering nearly 222,000 acres of National Forest and Bureau of Land Management land. This region, located south of Glenwood Springs and stretching beyond Crested Butte, will now be off-limits to mining and oil and gas exploration.

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland signed a public land order to safeguard the Thompson Divide for the next 20 years, aiming to preserve its natural beauty and prevent potential damage from mineral development. While existing mineral rights remain, any permanent withdrawal would require approval from Congress.

Governor Jared Polis welcomed the decision, emphasizing the Thompson Divide’s importance to Colorado’s environment and public enjoyment. The area boasts rich biodiversity and attracts visitors from around the globe, making its protection crucial.

The Department of the Interior noted that much of the withdrawn area has already been off-limits to oil and gas leasing, with no current or planned exploration activities. This move acknowledges decades of conservation efforts and underscores the landscape’s significance for habitat preservation and local communities.

The decision follows extensive engagement with stakeholders, including public meetings, input from Tribes, and a thorough review of thousands of comments. It aligns with President Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative, which aims to conserve and restore 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.

Colorado, with its vast federal land holdings, plays a significant role in this conservation effort. The state received substantial revenue from energy production on federal and tribal lands in fiscal year 2023, highlighting the importance of balancing conservation with economic interests.

In essence, the protection of the Thompson Divide represents a vital step towards safeguarding natural landscapes for future generations and advancing environmental conservation efforts nationwide.

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