Schwartz hammers Tipton for draft of Thompson Divide bill

The Thomson Divide.

There is broad support for the goals of Colorado-specific conservation legislation on the Western Slope, a new poll found.

Of 400 voters surveyed in Congressional District 3 and Chaffee and Fremont counties, two-thirds endorsed the designation of more public lands as wilderness areas, which is one of the aims of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy Act.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Joe Neguse, both Colorado Democrats, introduced the bill to protect approximately 400,000 acres of land in the state. Wilderness areas would constitute roughly 73,000 acres and 80,000 would be recreation and conservation management areas.

The House of Representatives may vote on the bill this week.

Another finding of the poll, conducted by New Bridge Strategy, is that support for wilderness areas increases among people who participate in more than one outdoor recreational activity. Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats agreed with greater wilderness designations.

The U.S. Forest Service reports over 109 million wilderness acres nationwide, describing the designation as “places where law mandates above all else that wildness be retained for our current generation, and those who will follow.”   

Over 200,000 acres in the Thompson Divide would also be removed from future oil and gas development under the CORE Act.

“The recent poll affirms what the citizens of Pitkin County and our neighboring Continental Divide watersheds have advocated for over 10 years,” Pitkin County Commissioner Greg Poschman said, according to the Aspen Daily News. “In no uncertain terms, we have repeatedly asked our representatives in Congress to protect the Thompson Divide."

Editor's note: This story was updated to clarify that survey respondents lived throughout the Western Slope.

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