U.S. Forest Service seeks deferral on gas leases

The U.S. Forest Service will ask next week that 19 parcels on western Colorado roadless forest lands be pulled from a February energy lease sale.

The parcels are on lands considered roadless under proposed rules for Colorado forests being considered by the Forest Service, but were inadvertently included in lands submitted to the Bureau of Land Management, the agency that conducts oil-and-gas lease auctions on federal land.

Officials with the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests, all headquartered in Delta, were surprised to see the 19 parcels included in the Feb. 12 lease sale, Forest Supervisor Charlie Richmond said.

Richmond said he’ll take up the issue with the BLM next week.

The 19 parcels are on land on which drilling would be permissible under rules for the managements of roadless areas that were drafted in the waning days of the Clinton administration.

Drilling, however, would be precluded under rules proposed by a committee charged with drafting rules that would apply only to forest lands in Colorado.

Forest officials two years ago processed and sent on several nominations by private companies of several parcels for possible inclusion in lease sales managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Some of those lands were included later by the drafters of the Colorado roadless rule, Richmond said.

“When it came out, it was as much a surprise to us as anyone,” Richmond said. “So now we have to ask BLM to defer the leases until something happens with the Colorado rule. I have my staff relooking at maps and making sure we have everything accounted for.”

BLM officials generally defer to the wishes of the Forest Service when dealing with leases on forest lands.

The affected parcels include about 13,000 acres.

In all, 80 parcels are up for lease in the Feb. 12 lease sale.


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