San Miguel County blasts Forest Service over energy leases
Aspen, CO Colorado
TELLURIDE, Colo. ” A San Miguel County commissioner called plans to offer energy leases on thousands of acres of national forest land “appalling.”
The commissioners and area residents met Tuesday with U.S. Forest Service officials to discuss nearly 49,000 acres in the southwest Colorado county up for lease in a Feb. 12 sale.
The land is part of 133,000 acres the Bureau of Land Management will offer for leasing to energy companies during its quarterly auction. Most of it is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, but the BLM acts as the leasing agent.
“This is appalling,” San Miguel County Commissioner Art Goodtimes said. “We are all upset with this.”
County commissioners say much of the land up for bid is wildlife habitat, along scenic rivers or in watersheds and should be protected. The county is expected to formally protest the proposed leases.
Commissioner Elaine Fischer said she felt the federal government’s process for dealing with the county “has been thrown out the window.”
Judy Schutza, a Forest Service district ranger, said federal officials will review leases in sensitive areas once the leases are sold.
“It doesn’t mean they can proceed with any drilling,” Schutza said. “We have considerable control when it comes to the environmental assessment process.”
The Forest Service has said it will withdraw about 13,000 acres from the auction that are in roadless areas the state wants to protect. The agency says the parcels’ inclusion was an oversight.
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