Last week's announcement that the Bureau of Land Management removed a significant portion of oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide country should be regarded as good news. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and the BLM announced that 25 of the 60 leases would be permanently retired. While some may bemoan the fact that more or all of the leases weren't shelved, it's worth recognizing that local voices banged the drum loud enough that action was taken and now one of the largest remaining undeveloped tracts of big game habitat in Colorado will remain intact for future generations. Those local voices included anglers, livestock operators, hunters, mountain bikers, skiers and more all working collaboratively to come up with an intelligent and forward thinking course of action to protect an incredible place where every single person can get out, unplug and roam.
Colorado is doing more than its fair share in the oil and gas production arena and for those who claim closing the doors on some oil and gas leases is costing our region jobs and money, consider this: the recreational industries in the Thompson Divide area already support upwards of 300 jobs and $30 million in revenue every single year. And that number will likely grow with more people trickling into the North Fork and Roaring Fork valleys. Along with major grassroots and local effort, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers played a huge role in helping to safeguard the high quality habitat of the Thompson Divide and is doing so in other places across the U.S. to ensure that our public lands stay in public hands.
Can you imagine the White River and Gunnison National Forests and BLM grounds that surround our valleys being gated, padlocked and/or privatized? If we don't pay attention and speak up, there are many misguided and misinformed individuals who want to do just that. Keep public land in public hands!