Groups object to White River National Forest draft leasing decision

The Western Energy Alliance, West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association, and Public Lands Advocacy jointly filed a formal objection to the US Forest Service’s draft oil and gas leasing decision for the White River National Forest in western Colorado.

The Western Energy Alliance, West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association, and Public Lands Advocacy jointly filed a formal objection to the US Forest Service’s draft oil and gas leasing decision for the White River National Forest in western Colorado.

The groups objected to White River National Forest Supervisor Scott G. Fitzwilliams’ Dec. 9 draft record of decision, which would close nearly 1.3 million acres of the forest to oil and gas leasing, 61,000 acres of which are in the still high-potential Four Mile-Thompson Divide area where the first well was drilled in 1947.

“The plan, marred by political interference and superficial analysis, fails to successfully balance responsible energy development with conservation and ignores the broad economic needs of all local communities, not just favored segments of society,” the groups jointly said in a Feb. 10 statement.

“While failing to analyze the actual oil and gas potential in the area, particularly of the Mancos and Niobrara formations, the Forest Service blithely removes nearly 1.3 million acres from oil and gas leasing and imposes blanket No Surface Occupancy (NSO), the most severe restriction, on most of the little that remains available for leasing,” they said.

“My decision is not permanent. My authority to make lands available to leasing is valid for the life of this analysis—usually 15-20 years,” Fitzwilliams said in his draft ROD. “If new information or technological advances show the need to revisit this decision, I have the authority to do so. But at this time, I have decided to take a more conservation-minded approach to future gas leasing on the White River National Forest.”

The groups called on the Forest Service to withdraw the plan and complete the comprehensive analysis required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

“The Mancos and Niobrara shales are the future of oil and gas development on the West Slope and are important to our economy,” said WSCOGA Executive Director David Ludlam. “Taking away public access to these significant shale gas resources is a decision that must not be taken lightly and its impacts to local governments must be fully disclosed. We believe this objection is the first step in making sure the multiple-use mission of the Forest Service isn't forgotten.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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