Top: Aerial photo taken October 2012 of the Yank Creek watershed in the Thompson Divide, a wilderness area located in western Colorado. Credit: Jane Pargiter - EcoFlight
Bottom: SkyTruth simulation of the same area of the Thompson Divide overlain with simulated five-acre well pads and new service roads (in white). To see more views of our simulation, click here.
Recently, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced they would temporarily suspend 25 oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide, a wild swath of backcountry covering 221,500 acres of public land in western Colorado. Because the lease holders did not diligently develop these leases and are running out of time on their ten-year lease terms, they asked BLM for an extension. While this decision paused the clock on drilling for natural gas in this rugged portion of the White River National Forest, our friends at the Wilderness Workshop and Thompson Divide Coalition, as well as thousands of people from around the country, were pressing for BLM to allow the leases to expire this year.
The Lake Ridge unit of the Thompson Divide is a high quality backcountry dominated by roadless areas reaching from the Sunlight Ski Area (south of Glenwood Springs) in the north to McClure Pass (between Carrbondale and Paonia) in the south. It is heavily forested, spans five watersheds, and provides valuable habitat for lynx, mountain lion, bear, moose, native cutthroat trout, and elk. Recreation, grazing, hunting and fishing in the area brings $30 million a year to Colorado's economy. However, developing gas in this region would require intensive horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and new roads would have to be built in roadless areas.
|Looking southwest over our simulation of drilling in the Lake Ridge Unit of Thompson Divide from north of the Sunlight Ski Area. To see more views of our simulation, click here.|
|Looking north over the Thompson Divide with Carbondale to the northeast. To see more views of our simulation, click here.|
Watch the video below to take an aerial tour of Thompson Divide as it looks today.