White River National Forest officials to write EIS on oil, gas leasing | PostIndependent.com

White River National Forest officials to write EIS on oil, gas leasing

Managers of the White River National Forest (WRNF) will be putting together an environmental impact statement (EIS) “to identify the portions of the WRNF that will be administratively available for oil and gas leasing … and the conditions under which surface activities can take place,” according to a statement from the Forest Service.

The EIS is part of a revision of the WRNF 1992 oil and gas leasing decisions, and is to include other agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

“The EIS is necessary to respond to changing conditions since 1993,” the statement declared, “Including the WRNF issuance of a revised Land and Resource Management Plan – 2002 Revision [Forest Plan], and technological advances in oil and gas exploration and development that expand development potential of previously uneconomic resources,” according to a statement from the White River National Forest.

According to Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams, “Our goal is to complete this analysis in a timely and cost effective manner while ensuring the resources of the White River National Forest are protected for future generations. As we move forward, we want to hear from the public.”

The plan is to release the draft EIS for public comment in winter 2011.

According to David Francomb, leasable minerals program manager for the WRNF, there currently are roughly 130,000 acres of oil and gas leases within the forest, on 143 different leases.

He reported that prior to 1993, that number stood at about 43,000 acres on 54 different leases. Following the 1993 study and decisions about leasing, the forest added about 87,000 acres on 89 different leases.

Francomb explained that the agency expects to make fewer acres available administratively for a number of reasons, including the withdrawal of some areas due to scenic river corridor designation; ski area permits; and the determination that some lands are “moderate to low” in potential for oil and gas exploration.

Questions or requests for further information should go to Francomb, at 945-3293.

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