Oil & Gas Plans

WW is urging balance and restraint in two big policy documents
WRNF oil & gas leasing map

A map of what’s available (and not) for future leasing, under the White River National Forest’s new Oil & Gas Leasing Plan.

The document that will guide the White River National Forest Service‘s decisions on oil and gas leasing for the next 20+ years has just been released (see sidebar).

The WRNF’s final Oil and Gas Leasing Plan comes near the end of a four-year process to update the current plan, which dates from 1993. Twenty years ago, there was essentially no drilling activity in the region, fracking and directional drilling technologies had yet to transform the industry, and Forest planners anticipated only a handful of new wells being drilled. Needless to say, their 1993 analysis is now woefully out of date.

We’re cautiously pleased with the new plan’s better treatment of the Thompson Divide and roadless areas, and cautiously optimistic that the BLM will incorporate them into its upcoming review of 65 disputed roadless-area leases. However, these gains are not yet entirely assured, as industry groups may yet appeal the decision. Therefore, we’ll be on standby in the coming months to ensure that the Forest Service doesn’t water down any provisions, and we’ll need your help on this.

Meanwhile, the BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office released the final version of its Resource Management Plan in March 2014. The office is responsible for 505,000 acres of public land and 707,000 acres of mineral estate in the Roaring Fork, Eagle and Colorado River watersheds. This plan will be a guiding document on where, when and how oil and gas development will occur in much of the Thompson Divide and the public lands north and south of the I-70 corridor over the next two decades. It will also establish priorities and policies for all other “resources” managed by the Colorado River Valley Field Office, including recreation and wildlife.

Although this is the “final” version of the plan, WW has filed two protests to clarify aspects of the plan relating to oil and gas development and “lands with wilderness characteristics.” We’re awaiting a response from the BLM on these.