Whoops " oil, gas lease area includes Colorado roadless zone | AspenTimes.com

Whoops " oil, gas lease area includes Colorado roadless zone

Todd Hartman
Rocky Mountain News
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” A U.S. Forest Service official admits an agency “oversight” allowed 13,100 acres in a western Colorado roadless zone to be included in an upcoming oil and gas lease sale.

Charlie Richmond, forest supervisor for the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests, said the agency this week will ask the Bureau of Land Management to remove the contested acres from its February lease sale.

“This just slipped through, and we’re going to take care of it,” Richmond said, noting the matter just recently came to his attention.

Environmentalists sounded alarms about the issue last week and said putting the acres up for lease violated an agreement between Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey and Gov. Bill Ritter that the Forest Service wouldn’t lease acreage Colorado is considering for roadless protection.

“This definitely contradicts what was agreed on by Rey,” said Matt Garrington of Environment Colorado. “This really shows the need for Ritter to reaffirm with the Obama administration interim (roadless) protections.”

What areas would be protected under roadless provisions has caused great confusion as a legal fight continues over the initial roadless rule dating to 2001. That rule called for protecting 58.5 million acres of national forest road less areas from road-building and logging. It has stirred controversy between green groups and extractive industries such as mining and energy companies.

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In the most recent court ruling, Colorado was left out of the protections laid out in the 2001 rule and is moving ahead to finalize a state-authored version of the rule for 4 million acres of backcountry forest.

Richmond said that neither the BLM nor the Forest Service personnel involved in the leasing process had clear information that the lands fell under Colorado’s roadless plans. He called the matter an “honest mistake.”

“We’re going to ask the BLM to defer those 19 parcels until the Colorado (roadless) rules get settled,” Richmond said.

BLM spokesman Jim Sample couldn’t immediately say whether his agency would agree to remove the parcels from the lease sale, but he indicated the Forest Service’s position would have some influence in the matter.

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