Forest Supervisor Jacque Buchanan decided to withdraw the Record of Decision not to authorize the Bureau of Land Management to lease National Forest System land in the Wyoming Range for oil and gas development. The B-T reported in a news release on Thursday, “Upon review of the appeal points made on the decision, it became apparent that the environmental analysis did not thoroughly explain the basis for several conclusions regarding the potential effects of oil & gas development.”
Withdrawing the decision allows Buchanan an opportunity to solidify analysis of the 44,720 acres in question. “Withdrawing the Record of Decision will allow further evaluation of several key issues, including, but not limited to, the potential impacts to air quality, lynx habitat and mule deer migration routes. Another decision will be forthcoming,” said Buchanan
Additional evaluation of issues will be subject to public review pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act and a future decision will be subject to administrative appeal per Forest Service appeal procedures.
Buchanan’s decision of January 25, 2011 was appealed by four entities: Stanley Energy, Inc., Western Energy Alliance, Wold Oil Properties, Inc, and Sublette County Commissioners. Appellants raised several concerns about the Forest Supervisor’s decision stating the decision was inconsistent with several laws including the National Forest Management Act, Administrative Procedures Act, the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The appeals will no longer be processed.
On January 25, 2011, Bridger-Teton National Forest Jacque Buchanan decided not to authorize the Bureau of Land Management to lease National Forest System land in the Wyoming Range for oil and gas development. Her decision was based on the analysis contained in a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS.)
The decision for the 44,720 acres of National Forest land considered new information and changed circumstances related to issues such as protection of threatened wildlife, impacts on local air quality, other energy projects underway in the area, and public concerns identified since completion of previous environmental analyses. This supplemental analysis was performed after the Interior Board of Land Appeals determined that previous environmental analysis efforts did not take the requisite hard look at some of the potential effects of leasing.
The supplemental environmental impact statement looked at whether there was significant new information or changed circumstances which would indicate a different decision should be made since the prior decisions by the Forest Service to authorize leasing.
Four alternatives were analyzed:
• Alternative 1: “No Action” would authorize no leasing.
• Alternative 2: “Proposed Action” would authorize 12 suspended leases and 23 pending leases.
• Alternative 3: “Proposed Action Plus” would authorize the 12 suspended leases and 23 pending leases subject to additional stipulations – such as no surface occupancy and controlled surface use – in response to current issues.
• Alternative 4: “Minimal Leasing” would allow directional drilling from producing leases to enable some recovery of energy resources.
A variation on Alternatives 2 and 3 that authorizes the 12 but not the 23 lease parcels was also analyzed.