Roadless areas are focus of proposed forest oil, gas plan

A proposal identifying 266,599 acres as available for oil and gas development on the White River National Forest would protect some of that acreage by limiting surface disturbances in roadless areas.

But while about 141,000 of those acres are roadless, 61,000 of the roadless acres already are leased for development, and many of those leases aren’t bound by what are called no-surface-occupancy restrictions that would require directional drilling. Existing rules would continue to apply to those leases, meaning the proposed protections would take effect only if the leases are terminated, relinquished or canceled and the areas are nominated for leasing again.

The White River National Forest on Wednesday announced a proposal to revise its 1993 oil and gas leasing plan.

Almost 396,000 acres were identified as authorized and available for leasing in the 1993 document, said David Francomb, leasable minerals program manager for the White River National Forest. He said the acreage being proposed now is smaller for reasons such as wild and scenic river considerations and removal of lands where there is moderate to low estimated oil and gas resource potential and no current interest in leasing.

The proposal identifies 857,512 acres as legally closed to leasing for reasons such as being in wilderness, and about 1.16 million acres as closed through management direction. Francomb said that if energy companies showed an interest in developing any of the latter 1.16 million acres, it would require another round of environmental analysis.

Lands identified as available for leasing are on the forest’s west end, roughly from the De Beque to Carbondale areas and east of Meeker.

The Forest Service is updating the oil and gas plan to reflect its 2002 rewrite of the White River National Forest plan.


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