US producers object to roadless lands withdrawals

Independent US oil producers warned Monday that the Clinton administration�s plan to protect most of the remaining roadless areas within the National Forest System would have serious energy ramifications. Producers said the plan would remove more than 50 million acres of federal lands from the possibility of oil and gas development.

Jul 20th, 2000


Independent US oil producers warned Monday that the Clinton administration�s plan to protect most of the remaining roadless areas within the National Forest System would have serious energy ramifications.

In May, the US Forest Service proposed a rule to ban road construction or reconstruction in most inventoried roadless areas of the National Forest Service. It would require the Forest Service to evaluate the characteristics of roadless areas during land and resource management plan revisions.

Producers said the procedure would remove more than 50 million acres of federal lands from the possibility of oil and gas development.

Objecting to the proposal in formal comments Monday were the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States (IPAMS), the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association, and the Castle Valley Gas Producers� Council.

IPAMS Pres. Neal Stanley said, �Consumers should recognize that current proposals that would remove access to our nation�s rich supply of petroleum will almost certainly result in higher energy costs and an increased dependence on foreign oil and gas.�

Marc Smith, IPAMS land and environment director, said, �The administration�s plan to withdraw an unprecedented amount of federal acreage, including nearly a quarter of the national forest, prior to the November elections is nothing more than a short-sighted political stunt.�

Objections
The producer groups say the proposal is unlawful because the Forest Service only consulted environmental groups beforehand, although the Federal Advisory Committee Act requires such proposals to be drafted in public. They said the proposal�s definition of an "unroaded" area is vague and lacks criteria for judging whether an area meets roadless qualifications.

They said, if the proposed rule would deny producers access to valid existing leases, then it would violate a constitutional provision prohibiting the government from taking property without compensation.

�It appears that this rule will essentially create areas that are managed as wilderness," said the groups in a joint statement. "Few, if any, distinctions can be made between the purpose of wilderness areas and the objectives of this proposed rule.

�The authority to create wilderness areas has not been delegated to the Forest Service, yet in spirit and intent, that is exactly what this rule would do,� they said.

The groups said the proposed rule bypasses a recognized planning process, would require congressional approval and violates a law requiring agencies to analyze the fiscal effect of rules on small businesses.

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