Judge: No Drilling in Wilderness Areas

Nearly 100 oil and gas leases that had been issued in Colorado’s wilderness and roadless areas by the Bureau of Land Management have been blocked by a ruling from US District magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte in California on Wednesday.In September, Judge Laporte had reinstated the Clinton-era roadless plan across the nation that the Bush-Cheney White House had nixed early in their administration, but she had left it uncertain whether more than 300 oil and gas leases issued across the nation on roadless national forest lands would be voided. Her ruling on Wednesday now protects all the wilderness and roadless areas from oil and gas exploration.

Back in August, the US Forest Service offered 22 parcels for gas drilling in designated roadless areas and 17 were bid on in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests. Tracts were leased for $55 to $300 an acre. In the White River National Forest, prices went between $7 and $297 an acre, according to the BLM, which handled the lease sales for the Forest Service.

Although Governor Owens had been a vocal opponent of the Clinton roadless area plan and Judge Laporte’s September ruling, he nevertheless changed his stance in November to support the findings from the Colorado roadless task force in protecting 4.4 million acres in Colorado from development.