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Unified for the Thompson Divide, over a decade in

Locations: Columns, Opinion Published

This past week, I was in Carbondale. I live along the Crystal River, right at the base of the Thompson Divide, so a trip into Carbondale isn’t all that uncommon. But I was making a special trip — one to pick up a new “Unified for Thompson Divide” yard sign from Wilderness Workshop. My old sign has been on display for years now and, to put it nicely, the sign was looking a little “well-loved.”

Last week, the Workshop hosted “Spring into Action for the Thompson Divide” — four days of actions community members could take, all to protect a place that’s near and dear to so many of us: the Thompson Divide. These quarter of a million acres of public land, west of Carbondale and south of Sunlight Ski Resort, are a landscape our community has been fighting to permanently protect for over a decade.

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Described as a “Colorado Crown Jewel” by former governor John Hickenlooper, the Divide has hunting units that generate over 20,000 big-game licenses each year; is summer range to some of the oldest ranching operations in the Roaring Fork Valley; contains one of the densest concentrations of inventoried roadless areas in the region; and it generates 300 jobs and $30 million each year in economic benefits. As we face increasing threats to wildlife habitat, the Divide is an important migration corridor for lynx, moose, elk, deer, bear, and mountain lions, and it links wildlands near Grand Junction to the Elk Mountains. To put it simply: the Thompson Divide is a special place.

Over the years, I’ve devoted a lot of time to this special place — in countless meetings of the Thompson Divide Coalition, on lobbying trips to Washington, D.C. and literally walking the land, showing people just why this place is so important. It’s been easy for me to talk about the landscapes of the Thompson Divide — the sweeping vistas on mountain ridgelines, the forest filled with wildlife and the ranches that feed our families. But I want to take a moment and thank the people who have fought so hard to protect his place — everyone in our community who has marched in rallies, signed petitions and advocacy actions, gone to countless meetings and so much more over the many years. We’ve had high highs and low lows and, throughout it all, your passion for the Thompson Divide never seems to run out. Thank you.

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While many of the oil and leases that originally threatened the Divide and sparked my advocacy have been canceled and the White River National Forest has administratively closed portions of the Divide to new leasing (a temporary measure), I don’t want us to lose sight of the goal of permanently protecting the Divide through federal legislation. These protections are included in the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act, which was first introduced in 2019 and would protect over 400,000 acres of public lands across Colorado.

This CORE Act has passed the House of Representatives several times during the current session of Congress; this popular legislation has had a committee hearing and is currently awaiting a mark-up in the Senate, the final step before a vote. I’m grateful that we have long-time champions for the Thompson Divide in Senator Bennet & Representative Neguse, and was happy to have Senator Hickenlooper join as a co-sponsor after his election. While it’s challenging to move any legislation forward in the Senate right now, I’m hopeful that the CORE Act will make it through this year.

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“Spring into Action” was a chance to energize our community about how far we’ve come, to look toward the future and to celebrate a place we hold dear. If you missed any of the activities — don’t worry! The Wilderness Workshop team told me you can still come by their offices (inside the Third Street Center in Carbondale, 520 South Third Street, Suite 27, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day) and get a new “Unified for the Thompson Divide” yard sign or sticker. Join me in re-committing to this special place and showing that our community remains “Unified for Thompson Divide!”

Tai Jacober is a Thompson Divide hunter and rancher. He owns, and lives with his wife and two children at Avalanche Ranch, a guest ranch with cabins and hot springs at the base of the Thompson Divide.

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Thanks to everyone who submitted photos to The Sopris Sun! It was a tough choice, but this shot by Brandon Jones stood out as our favorite for the contest by Wilderness Workshop.

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Tags: #Brandon Jones #Jacober #Thompson Divide #Unified for Thompson Divide #Wilderness Workshop
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