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Group Proposes Truce in Western Slope Drilling Battle

In western Colorado, there’s a new twist in the battle over plans to open up a scenic area near Carbondale to oil and gas drilling as a local conservation group has now offered to pay several companies not to develop leases they hold in the area.  

Environmentalists have long lobbied to keep oil and gas companies out of the Thompson Divide area – a swath of largely undeveloped high-desert land between Carbondale and Paonia. 

Now a group called the Thompson Divide Coalition is offering to reimburse several companies for the money they’ve invested toward developing leases thus far in exchange for letting them expire.  The group says it could pay more than $2 million.

Coalition spokesperson Dorothea Farris, a former Pitkin County commissioner, says the area is home to critical wildlife habitat.  

"Our wilderness areas are ice and rock, and that’s spectacular," Farris said. "But this land has a lot more activity, both from animals and people within that elevation, that makes it more critical in my mind."

The group sent letters to SG Interests, Encana Oil and Gas and others in Denver this week outlining their settlement. 

The companies have not yet responded to the proposition.

Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.