BLM meetings this week
The Bureau of Land Management is hosting three public meetings this week to provide information and accept public comments on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement that analyzes 65 existing oil and gas leases on the White River National Forest, including leases in the Thompson Divide area.
The meetings run from 4-7 p.m. They begin with a 45-minute open house in which various BLM specialists will be available to answer questions one-on-one. A brief presentation will begin at 4:45 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer session. The BLM will begin taking oral comments at about 5:15 p.m.
The meetings will be held at the following dates and locations:
• Monday, Glenwood Springs Community Center, 100 Wulfson Road
• Tuesday, De Beque Elementary School, 730 Minter Ave., De Beque
• Wednesday, Roaring Fork High School, 2270 Highway 133, Carbondale
The EIS presents five alternatives, ranging from no changes to the existing leases to canceling them in their entirety. The final alternative the BLM ultimately selects may incorporate components of two or more of the alternatives presented in the Draft EIS. The agency’s preferred alternative in the draft is to cancel 18 oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide and reduce another seven in size.
The 65 leases were issued in 2004 under a then-decade-old forest management plan and EIS that environmental groups, local governments and citizens have maintained was deficient and in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.
The Interior Board of Land Appeals ultimately agreed, and directed the BLM to conduct its own analysis since it did not do so at the time the leases were issued. The leases stretch across a large swath of the White River National Forest from western Pitkin County to just outside of De Beque.
But much of the focus has been on leases that exist within the roughly 220,000-acre Thompson Divide region south of Glenwood Springs toward McClure Pass.
The BLM proposes to cancel 18 of those leases altogether, and reduce the acreage for seven other leases in that area held by SG Interests and Ursa Resources.
The other 40 leases, located west of the Thompson Divide in an area that already has substantial oil and gas development, would remain valid under the plan.
The BLM’s proposed action follows a final decision earlier this year by Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams to close the Thompson Divide area to leasing for the next 20 years, while allowing leasing to occur elsewhere on the forest within the energy-rich Piceance Basin.
This week’s meetings serve two purposes, said BLM Colorado River Valley Field Manager Karl Mendonca. “We want to help the public understand what is in the draft so that they can provide more effective comments, and we want to provide an opportunity to people wishing to give us their comments verbally.”
Written comments on the draft will be accepted at the meeting and through Jan. 8. Comments may be e-mailed to WRNFleases@blm.gov; faxed to 970-876-9090; or mailed to BLM Colorado River Valley Field Office, Attn: WRNF Leases, 2300 River Frontage Road, Silt, CO 81652.
Additional information about the EIS is available at: http://www.blm.gov/co/crvfo.
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