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Forest Managers Propose to Limit Drilling

Colorado National Forests.JPG
KUNC file photo

Land managers on the state’s largest National Forest are proposing to vastly scale back the amount of lands available for oil and gas development. 

A new draft environmental study released Thursday by the White River National Forest would allow oil and gas leasing about 260,000 acres; down by about a third from the current plan which stems from 1993. 

Forest officials say an overhaul is needed since a lot has changed since that time. New technologies around hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have put oil and gas reserves on the table that were previously thought unfeasible, says forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams.

Garfield County and surrounding areas have also seen a dramatic rise in drilling since 2000.

"And then from the resource perspective, we have more information, better information about wildlife populations and winter ranges for elk and deer," he says.

The White River National Forest stretches from Summit County to southwest of Aspen, but geology has dictated oil and gas drilling to mostly occurring on its western fringes. 

The proposed plan governing future leasing on the forests is up for public review through the end of October.