BLM draft EIS examines existing leases in White River National Forest

The US Bureau of Land Management’s Colorado Valley field office issued a draft environmental impact statement that analyzes 65 existing oil and gas leases in the White River National Forest (WRNF), including several in the Thompson Divide area. Comments will be accepted through Jan. 8, 2016.

BLM developed the draft EIS in response to defects the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) found in 2007 related to issuance of the leases from 1995 to 2004. It said IBLA determined the leases were issued without BLM’s either formally adopting a National Environmental Policy Act analysis developed by the US Forest Service or preparing one of its own.

BLM said it is taking the latter step now and will determine whether the 65 leases should be cancelled, reaffirmed, or modified with additional or different terms. It also will hold public meetings on the draft EIS in Glenwood Springs on Dec. 14, DeBeque on Dec. 15, and Carbondale on Dec. 16.

Separately, WRNF has issued a record of decision and final environmental impact statement revising the list of land available for oil and gas leasing within its 2.2 million acres. BLM said its draft EIS incorporates information from those documents.

It presents five alternatives, ranging from no changes to existing leases to cancelling them entirely. The final alternative may incorporate elements from two or more of the ones presented. Alternative 4, its proposed action, would cancel all or part of 25 existing leases in areas closed to future leasing by the Forest Service, BLM said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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