20-year ban on mining, drilling in Colorado's Thompson Divide finalized

April 4, 2024

A 20-year ban on new mining and oil and gas development on more than 200,000 acres of federal lands in Western Colorado’s Thompson Divide was finalized by the Biden administration on April 3.

The mineral withdrawal involves mostly Forest Service land covering parts of four national forests and about 15,000 acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

President Joe Biden proposed evaluating the 20-year mineral withdrawal as part of his October 2022 decision to designate the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument, a 53,804-acre site in the state’s Eagle Valley region that once served as a World War II Army camp for the 10th Mountain Division that deployed to Italy’s northern Apennines in 1945.

E&E News reported that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland signed a public lands order withdrawing the 221,898 acres, the agency said.
“The Thompson Divide area is a treasured landscape, valued for its wildlife habitat, clean air and water, and abundant recreation, ecological and scenic values,” Haaland said in a statement. “Today’s action has been the goal of a decades-long grassroots effort from a diverse stakeholder group, including hunters, anglers, ranchers, conservation groups, and local governments — and reflects this administration’s ongoing commitment to honoring and lifting up locally led conservation efforts.”

Interior Department press materials touted the Thompson Divide mineral withdrawal as advancing the Biden administration’s “America the Beautiful” initiative to protect 30 percent of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in explaining the move, emphasized that it will help preserve the Western Colorado region’s recreation economy.

“Around $30 million flows through this region every year thanks to a one-of-a-kind landscape that draws visitors for hiking, biking, fishing, hunting and so much more,” Vilsack said in a statement. “This important step will help ensure those scenic, recreation and environmental values remain intact.”

The decision to protect the Thompson Divide follows a draft environmental assessment and draft finding of no significant impact in December released by the Forest Service and BLM that “recommended” the alternative approving the 20-year mineral withdrawal.

The proposal had been sharply criticized by the Western Energy Alliance, a Denver-based oil and gas industry trade group.

Photo: Shutterstock: Sunrise on The Big Thompson River and Moraine Park located in Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, Colorado



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