New agreement stops leasing in FS Roadless Areas
Protects roadless areas in Bridger-Teton & Shoshone National Forests
March 23, 2006
A new agreement has been reached by Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal and U.S. Forest Service officials to protect roadless areas in Wyoming set for oil and gas leasing. This agreement protects designated roadless areas for near-term oil and gas leasing in the Bridger-Teton and Shoshone national forests.
According to a press release from the Governorís Office Thursday, under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the state and Forest Service, there will be no new leases in the two forests' roadless areas until their forest plan revisions and leasing availability decisions, which include opportunities for public outreach and input, are completed.
"I encourage people who feel strongly about leasing in the Bridger-Teton and Shoshone to actively participate in the forest planning process," Freudenthal said. "This agreement with the Forest Service does not end leasing forever, it simply delays decisions until such time as they can be properly made."
Both forests initiated their forest plan revisions in 2005, with completion planned for 2008. During the second half of 2007, the plans will be released for a formal public comment period, though public comment is welcome at any time through the forest supervisors' offices. Additionally, cooperators' meetings are announced and open to the public.
Citing air quality concerns and outdated environmental assessments, Freudenthal has in the past expressed concern with leasing in the Wyoming Range of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Both the Bridger-Teton and the Shoshone are currently in the process of revising their forest plans, and the state of Wyoming, counties and conservation districts are participating as cooperating agencies. The state also participated in recent revisions of the plans for the other forests in Wyoming.
Suitability of lands for oil and gas leasing will be evaluated during the forest plan revision process. Later leasing decisions will identify specific acres in the suitable land use areas where leasing may occur and the specific stipulations that will apply. No additional oil and gas and mineral leases will be approved within inventoried roadless areas on the Bridger-Teton and Shoshone national forests until the availability decisions are made.
The state of Wyoming could still submit a petition for management of roadless areas, but Freudenthal has long maintained that effective and efficient management decisions are best left within the forest planning process. The memorandum of understanding between the state of Wyoming and the U.S. Forest Service relies on the current forest plan revision process to address roadless management issues.
Editorís Note: As of Thursday evening, we have been unable to get a definitive answer as to whether this new Memorandum of Understanding means the 19,000+ acres of land in the Horse Creek/Beaver Ridge area will be withdrawn from the auction block on April 4th or are still in. According to the Big Piney Ranger District map, these parcels appear to be in the area designated as Roadless, however we have heard conflicting reports from two different government agencies as to the status of these parcels. We will update this aspect of the MOU as more information comes available.
Governor Freudenthalís comments on the new agreement (260K mp3 file)
GOVERNOR, FOREST SERVICE AGREE ON ROADLESS LEASING Gov Freudenthal Press Release (3/23/06)