Udall Joins Efforts to Protect Thompson Divide, Balance Energy Development with Job-Creating Outdoor Recreation Economy
Legislation Protects Current Leases While Preserving Pristine Lands in Garfield, Gunnison, Pitkin Counties
Mark Udall, who serves on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, announced today he will co-sponsor the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act to protect 221,000 pristine acres of public lands in Gunnison, Pitkin and Garfield counties from energy development. The legislation, which Senator Michael Bennet introduced earlier this year, ensures that energy development — an important part of Colorado's economy and our nation's push toward energy independence — is balanced with other critical job-sustaining industries, including hunting, angling and other types of outdoor recreation.
"Colorado's natural gas industry is an important part of our state's economy and one I have been proud to partner with throughout my time in Congress. This legislation is critical to ensure that Colorado's balanced approach to energy development also respects our other job-creating industries while preserving the pristine public lands that form the foundation of our high quality of life," Udall said. "I have spent months studying the Thompson Divide, meeting with members of the natural gas industry and speaking with local residents about their concerns. I am confident that this legislation charts a prudent course that balances energy development with responsible conservation efforts."
The Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act would:
- Withdraw unleased lands on Thompson Divide and prohibit them from being leased in the future for mining or other development; and,
- Allow those who hold mineral leases on Thompson Divide to relinquish their leases, sell them, voluntarily exchange their holdings for other mineral interests or donate them to conservancy organizations.
Udall, a longtime supporter of the role natural gas plays in Colorado's economy and our nation's pursuit of energy self-reliance, decided to co-sponsor Bennet's proposal after months of outreach to local residents, meetings with energy companies and surveying Thompson Divide in person. He remains committed to strengthening the natural gas industry alongside Colorado's other important economic drivers.
Udall recently addressed the Colorado Oil and Gas Association at its 25th Annual Rocky Mountain Energy Summit. In his speech, while calling for increased transparency, cooperation and public perception awareness from the industry, Udall praised the industry's embrace of innovative technologies that more efficiently tap new and traditional energy sources and promised to continue fighting to ensure that Colorado's oil and gas industry remains a strong, vital part of our nation's energy strategy.
Udall's announcement comes amid his statewide energy tour, a series of roundtables and other events with Colorado energy industry officials, local leaders and the public. As part of the tour, Udall has visited Adolfson & Peterson's solar thermal unit in Aurora, the National Wind Technology Center in Louisville, the Elk Creek Mine and methane-capture project in Somerset and many other sites.