Bridger-Teton releases Draft Supplemental EIS on Wyoming Range Oil and Gas
by Bridger-Teton National Forest
February 7, 2010
The Bridger-Teton National Forest announces the release of the draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for oil and gas leasing of 44,720 acres of land in the Wyoming Range. Issues analyzed are those where there is significant new information or changed circumstances from previous environmental studies. The preferred alternative in this document is alternative one, the no leasing alternative.
The original leasing availability decision was made in the Bridger-Teton Forest Plan in 1990. In 2004 when industry expressed interest in this area, the Bridger-Teton reviewed the availability decision in a Supplemental Information Report. As a result, leases were offered in several sales in 2005 and 2006. Those sales were later appealed by interested publics to the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) which remanded the sales to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for deficiencies in the environmental analysis. The specifics were focused on Canada lynx and air quality. At that point, 12 leases had been issued, and were consequently suspended. An additional 23 leases had not been issued and were classified as "pending". In March of 2009, the Wyoming Range was withdrawn from mineral leasing in the Public Lands Omnibus Act. In August of 2009, BLM rejected bids for the 23 leases. This decision has been appealed to Interior Board of Land Appeals.
Nearby extensive existing (9794 wells) and rapidly growing proposed (22,292 wells) oil and gas development primarily on BLM land is considered within this analysis.
Additionally, environmental studies of a proposed Master Development Plan from Plains Exploration (136 wells on 14,000 acres of adjacent National Forest System lands) are underway and considered. Three action alternatives as well as the no leasing alternative are analyzed. The Forest Service has heard from the public that the recreation, scenery, and sense of place are highly valued in the Wyoming Range. New information, unavailable at the time of previous decisions, has led Forest Supervisor Kniffy Hamilton of the Bridger-Teton National Forest to identify no leasing as the preferred alternative in the Draft document. "The no leasing alternative avoids impacts to the Canada lynx and precludes contributing to cumulative impacts to air quality and mule deer," said Hamilton. Additionally the alternative avoids direct and indirect impacts to recreation and scenery.
The public will have 45-days to comment on the draft Supplemental EIS. After the conclusion of the comment period, Forest Supervisor Hamilton will make a decision about oil and gas leasing for the area. The final Supplemental EIS is expected to be published in May of 2010. Written comments must be submitted to: Bridger-Teton National Forest, Attention Forest Supervisor Kniffy Hamilton at PO Box 1888 Jackson, WY 83001. The office business hours for those submitting hand-delivered comments are 8:00 – 4:30 Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. Oral comments must be provided at the Responsible Official’s office during normal business hours via telephone 307-739-5500 or in person. Electronic comments must be submitted in rich text format (.rtf), or Word (.doc) to firstname.lastname@example.org. A copy of the Draft Supplemental EIS is available on the Bridger-Teton website at http://wwww.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_projects?forest=110403. Comments must meet the information requirements of 36 CFR 215.6. Only those who submit timely comments will be eligible to appeal the subsequent decision under 36 CFR 215.