BLM trims energy leasing

The Bureau of Land Management is proposing offering some 29,000 acres for oil and gas leasing in northwest Colorado in June, but it deferred leasing on tens thousands of acres more nominated for the sale because of greater sage-grouse and other concerns.

The agency is proposing proceeding with offering about 26,500 acres in Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties, and 2,560 acres in Jackson County, in the sale.

Environmental assessments on the proposals by the White River and Kremmling field offices are being released this week and the agency is accepting comments on them until Dec. 30.

Nearly 40,000 acres originally were nominated for leasing for the June sale within the Kremmling office’s jurisdiction, and some 65,000 acres were nominated within the White River office’s domain.

Much of the acreage deferred from the Kremmling sale was a result of it being priority sage-grouse habitat. The BLM is moving toward a decision on proposed measures to protect the bird in northwest Colorado as part of an effort to keep it from being listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act. BLM spokesman David Boyd said that decision will dictate what deferred parcels are or aren’t offered for leasing.

The BLM’s undertaking is coming under criticism from the energy industry and area government officials concerned about how much it could limit oil and gas drilling.

The White River Field Office initially deferred nearly 15,000 acres from the June lease sale because the parcels contain priority sage-grouse habitat. Now it’s proposing deferring leasing of another 24,000 acres, most of which involves either important general sage-grouse habitat, lands with wilderness characteristics, or a combination of the two. Boyd said the issue of lands with wilderness characteristics is being dealt with in the field office’s ongoing oil and gas amendment of its resource management plan, and those lands “may or may not be available” for leasing after that amendment is completed.

Of the lands the field office is proposing to lease in June, about 21,345 are on federal lands, with the government owning only the mineral rights for the remaining acreage.

Much of the acreage the field office is proposing to offer is east of Douglas Pass, northwest of Meeker across the Moffat County line, and north of the White River between Meeker and Rangely. Smaller acreages are west of Rangely and west of Piceance Creek.

For more information on commenting on the White River lease proposal, visit http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/wrfo.html. For the Kremmling proposal, go to http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/kfo.html.


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