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Wildlands Issues Special Report

Oil and Gas Leasing on Public Lands


The Bush administration is actively advocating more oil and gas exploration and drilling on public lands in the west. While most environmental resistance to these proposed new leases focus on the creation of new roads and loss of habitat, there are often dramatic sonic impacts as well.

In many cases, areas proposed for new oil or gas leases are currently remote; many are in roadless areas. Thus, they are often among the few sonic refuges left. BLM lands, in particular, often experience less recreation impact, and so are especially important.

The BLM and National Forest Service are currently considering new leases in several areas. This page contains contacts and management plan schedules; we encourage you to make your views known. The situation in each area is unique, and within each area there are likely some sections that would be more severely impacted by new development, and perhaps areas where some exploration could make sense.

In general, advocates informed decision-making, seeking to balance the biological and social needs for maintaining some sonic refuges with the unavoidable noise of industry and need for some areas to enjoy motorized recreation. When possible, we suggest that new noise-making activities be sited in areas nearby current industry or roads, or in areas where the topography will tend to contain the sound.

New BLM Directive Prioritizes Mineral Development

Los Padres National Forest (California)

The Los Padres National Forest contains 1.75 million acres of forest, grassland, and chaparral; it received national attention as the first release point of condors back into the wild. It is the only National Forest in California that is currently producing oil, about 700,000 barrels annually.

A proposal for new oil and gas leasing has progressed to the final stages of planning. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released last winter, with the public comment period closing in April 2002. A final EIS is expected this summer.

The new proposals aim to open up 140,000 new acres to oil and gas exploration, virtually all of which lie on near the boundaries of the Forest. Geologists think that the new areas may contain around 84 million barrels of oil, less than one percent of total estimated oil reserves on federal land in the US (including Alaska), or roughly enough to supply five to ten days of our total national demand.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, 3/11/2002

Los Padres National Forest

National Resources Defense Council

California Wild Heritage Campaign

Independent Oil Producers Agency (Bakersfield coalition of 40 "mom and pop" oil drilling companies)

California Independent Petrolium Association

Powder River Basin (Wyoming, Montana)

The Burea of Land Management is accepting comments on plans to open the Powder River Basin to coalbed methane development. This is the first test of the Bush administration's new directives to prioritize energy development on BML lands.

After receiving over 28,000 comments on two separate Draft EISs, BLM extended the comment deadline on the Wyoming EIS by a month, to May 15. Another factor in BLM's decision to extend the comment deadline was the fact that EPA has preliminarily given the Wyoming impact statement its worst possible rating, which may delay -- and hopefully will modify -- the final BLM EIS. Source: The Wilderness Society, 4/24/2002


BLM xxx Regional Office

The Wilderness Society [SEE ACTION ALERT]

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