DOW asks for halt on some oil, gas leases

RBC (AP) — The Colorado Division of Wildlife is recommending that several proposed federal oil and gas leases be withdrawn or issued with conditions in an upcoming auction to protect greater sage grouse, lynx, native cutthroat trout and other wildlife.
The comments released Thursday were among 97 protests or statements submitted on the May 8 auction of 175,430 acres. The parcels up for lease include roughly 19,000 acres classified as roadless under a 2001 ban on road-building in parts of national forests.
While spread throughout 14 counties, the bulk of the land up for lease is in the Rio Grande National Forest in southern Colorado.
Development should be prohibited at certain times of the year on some of the land so wildlife aren’t disturbed during mating or birthing seasons or kept from crucial winter range, state wildlife officials said.
The state agency also proposed limiting the number of well pads and other facilities by requiring that more wells be drilled from one site. State officials said research in Wyoming “suggests that winter timing limitations on oil and gas development activities are, by themselves, not adequate to protect critical winter habitats and migration corridors for big game.”
More natural gas companies are using directional drilling — boring more horizontally than vertically — so they can drill more holes from one area.
Rio Grande County has asked the BLM to postpone sale of some of the leases so it can review and update its oil and gas regulations. Saguache County wants several parcels withdrawn or at least put aside until a later sale so county officials can talk more to federal officials about the potential impacts.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which oversees mineral development on federal land, will decide whether to pull any of the parcels from the sale.