Open house gives residents look at proposed roadless rule
September 10, 2008
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Area residents had an in-depth look at a proposed U.S. Forest Service rule for managing about 4 million acres in Colorado during an open house at the Hotel Colorado on Wednesday.
That rule has drawn sharp criticism from environmental groups, who say those rules could open those lands up to significant oil and gas development. Forest lands that could see roads in roadless areas to service oil and gas leases include forest areas near Thompson Creek east of Carbondale and East Divide Creek southwest of Sunlight Mountain Resort.
The Forest Service has three possible alternatives for managing forests in Colorado in its rule ” including one submitted by a Colorado task force. The final rule and environmental impact statement is expected early next year.
One alternative might allow the building of an estimated 54 miles of roads to access 68,400 acres of oil and gas leases in Inventoried Roadless Areas that were issued before Jan. 12, 2001. Based on Forest Service projections, there could be 59 possible well pads placed in roadless areas.
Another option, based on a state proposal, could possibly allow about 136.5 miles of roads to access 130,00 acres of leases that may be issued before the final forest rule is adopted in Colorado Roadless Areas. Projections show that there could about 143 well pads in those forest areas under that alternative.
An estimated 140 miles of roads could be built to access 219,000 acres of lands available for oil and gas leasing in Inventoried Roadless Areas under a third alternative. About 132 well pads could be placed under that scenario, according to a Forest Service analysis.
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Most existing oil and gas leases in Colorado roadless areas are in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest, the San Juan National Forest and the White River National Forest.
Kathy Kurtz, the Colorado Roadless Rule team leader for the Forest Service, noted that any oil and gas project that may go forward in those roadless areas would be subject to an environmental analysis. All leases that have been issued in roadless areas have already been subject to an environmental anaylsis, according to Forest Service officials.
Clare Bastable, conservation director of the Colorado Mountain Club, said the biggest concern for many in Garfield County is that the rule contemplated by the Forest Service would allow roads to access leases issued in roadless forest areas between 2001 and when the Forest Service may finally adopt the final rule. Most of the leases issued after 2001 are concentrated near Thompson Creek and in East Divide Creek, Bastable said.
“What is the biggest concern to residents of Garfield County is that a lot of these ‘long term temporary roads’ are going to be in our backyards,” said Bastable, adding the “long-term temporary” roads may last for 30 years. “We are talking about roads in landscapes right next to our communities that are supposed to be roadless.”
The Forest Service’s open house in Glenwood Springs is one of eight being held in the state on the proposal. Residents at the open house were allowed to submit written comments at the meeting. They also had the option of providing oral comments to a court reporter.