VAIL, Colo. (AP) — As President Joe Biden was in Colorado on Wednesday to dedicate the first national monument of his presidency, his administration also announced new restrictions on resource extraction from some public lands in the state.
The administration announced it is pausing new mining and oil and gas drilling on 225,000 acres of public land in the Thompson Divide, a natural gas-rich area not far from Camp Hale. The move is separate from the Camp Hale national monument designation that brought the president to Colorado.
Citing a need to protect wildlife, the Interior Department said it is initiating a review of a proposed 20-year withdrawal of the area from new leasing. Preexisting natural gas leases, which the department said account for fewer than 1% of active federal leases in Colorado, won’t be affected.
“The Thompson Divide area has not been available to oil and gas leasing for several years, and there is no current or planned oil exploration or production in the area,” the Interior Department said in a news release.
Acres include national forests, BLM lands
The area includes parts of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests; White River National Forest; and Bureau of Land Management lands.
“The action does not affect water rights, activities on private lands, or valid existing rights, including the previously authorized Wolf Creek Gas Storage Area, an underground natural gas storage field critical to providing energy to the Roaring Fork Valley,” the Interior Department said.
Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, whose western Colorado district is home to the new restrictions, condemned the move as a “land grab” that would prevent domestic energy production.
The president’s stop in Colorado Wednesday is part of a three-state swing out West this week. Later Wednesday, Biden heads to California, where he will hold a pair of events promoting two of his most significant legislative achievements and headline a fundraiser for the House Democrats’ campaign arm.
Finally, Biden will stop in Oregon. where his party is in danger of losing the governor’s race, to rally Democrats. Early voting starts in Oregon and Colorado next week and is already underway in California.
FOX31’s Lanie Lee Cook contributed to this report.