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Biden administration order shields 222,000 acres in Thompson Divide from mining

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(The center Square) – The federal government has announced protections for the Thompson Divide on Colorado’s Western Slope, shielding almost 222,000 acres from any mining or energy development.

“The Thompson Divide area is a treasured landscape, valued for its wildlife habitat, clean air and water, and abundant recreation, ecological and scenic values,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who signed a public order under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which withdraws the land from development for up to 20 years.

The Biden administration first proposed the protections for the land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service in October 2022. President Joe Biden mentioned the proposal when he established the Camp Hale – Continental Divide National Monument near Leadville using the U.S. Antiquities Act, The Center Square previously reported.

“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to ensuring that special places like these are protected for future generations,” Haaland added.

The protections have the support of the Democratic members of Colorado’s congressional delegation. The withdrawal was agreed upon as part of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, which was reintroduced last summer by Rep. Joe Neguse and Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper. The act would make the withdrawal and protections for other public lands in the state permanent.

“I’ve fought for over a decade alongside Coloradans to protect the Thompson Divide & Mt. Emmons. I’m pleased by [Interior Department]’s decision to protect this treasured landscape,” Bennet said in a tweet. “Now, we must pass my CORE Act to make this withdrawal permanent and protect this land for generations to come.”

The agency said the area has not recently been up for oil and gas leasing, and the withdrawal doesn’t affect current water rights or the already-approved Wolf Creek Gas Storage Area project.

Federal agencies took approximately 31,000 public comments on the proposal, according to the DOI.

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