Earlier this month, the White River National Forest released its proposed new oil and gas leasing plan. The plan would protect key parts of the Forest from future leasing, but it could do more to safeguard the environment and public health. This is especially important since the area is a drinking water source for millions of people.
“This plan provides meaningful protections from future leasing for much of the Thompson Divide and inventoried roadless areas,” said Peter Hart, staff attorney for the Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop. “That’s very important, but given how much of our public lands are already available for oil and gas development and how much development land managers anticipate in coming years, it would have been better to halt further leasing on this popular national forest for the duration of the plan.”
The plan leaves 194,123 acres of the 2.3-million-acre White River National Forest, where production has occurred, open to future leasing. That is a reduction from 411,475 open acres in the current plan. The new plan closes areas with little or no potential for oil and gas development. Existing leases, which cover 131,141 acres, are not affected.
Because this plan is about future leasing, it does not resolve ongoing controversy about 65 existing oil and gas leases on the White River National Forest that were issued improperly by the BLM. Those leases are the subject of another planning process currently underway. BLM has said that it may affirm the leases, modify the leases with new terms, or void the leases. Many of the 65 existing leases are within the Thompson Divide and/or overlap with Roadless Areas. We need your help in urging the BLM to follow the Forest Service’s lead and protect those areas by voiding the improperly issued leases.
Take action TODAY! Thank the Forest Service for protecting the Thompson Divide and roadless areas and ask the BLM to void the improperly issued leases and to protect the Thompson Divide and roadless areas on the White River National Forest. Your letter provides valuable support to efforts seeking to protect our neighboring Forest’s clean water, clean air, and wild roadless areas.