As part of President Biden’s announcement establishing Camp Hale as a national monument today, the administration also announced a proposed mineral withdrawal for Colorado’s Thompson Divide. The withdrawal would protect over 200,000 acres of public lands between the Roaring Fork and North Fork Valleys from oil and gas leasing for 20 years.
Local governments, ranchers, recreationalists, and business owners have been requesting such a withdrawal for over a decade. The Thompson Divide provides critical wildlife habitat, wildlands, and outstanding opportunities for hunting, fishing, and a myriad of other recreational activities.
Given its importance to the local economy, protecting this swath of backcountry has united local communities. Independent economic analysis conducted by Denver-based BBC Research found that hunting, fishing, grazing, and recreation activities in the Thompson Divide support nearly 300 jobs and produce $30 million a year in economic value.
After legislation to protect the Thompson Divide, Camp Hale and other Colorado landscapes (the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy or CORE Act) stalled in Congress, community members and business owners joined their elected officials in asking the Biden administration to use its executive authority to preserve them.
Commenting on the announcement, Earthjustice Rocky Mountain Office Senior Attorney Michael Freeman said:
“The Biden administration is showing exactly the kind of courage this country needs by moving to protect over 200,000 acres in the Thompson Divide. The local community has worked tirelessly for over a decade to stave off oil and gas development and permanently protect wildlife, recreation, and ranching in this region. This is a critical step toward ensuring these public lands do not succumb to the same destruction that so many of our other treasured places have.”