Gas Drilling May Supersede Roadless Designations

The future of 22,000 acres of roadless areas leased for gas drilling doesn’t look good, according to members of the state’s roadless task force. Some blame themselves for not being bold in asking Gov. Bill Owens to back interim restrictions on drilling in roadless areas.The US Forest Service offered 22 parcels for gas drilling in designated roadless areas and 17 were bid on. The total lease sale raised more than 4.8 million. In the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests, tracts were sold for $55 to $300 an acre. In the White River National Forest, prices went between $7 and $297 an acre, according to the Bureau of Land Management, which handles lease sales for the Forest Service.

The BLM will not identify the buyers of the mineral rights until protests from local officials, sportsmen and environmental groups, and from statesmen like Senator Ken Salazar and Congressman John Salazar are resolved.

The Colorado Roadless Area Task Force hopes to complete its recommendations to Gov. Owens next month and feels it still may protect roadless forest tracts from construction and drilling leases. However, some members fear that in the meantime, the gas industry will have a “land rush” into roadless areas before any rules are enacted.

It may be just an “exercise” to have a roadless plan. The U.S. Forest Service said it isn’t bound by the task force’s recommendation or a future petition by Colorado’s governor concerning gas development in national forests.

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