Thank the US Forest Service for Protecting Thompson Divide

December 17, 2014 –

Good news from our friends on the other side of McClure!  The White River National Forest released a final oil and gas leasing plan last week that closes large swaths of the Thompson Divide to future leasing and adds protection for roadless areas.

These are important gains – but they’re not assured. Please email the Forest Service and BLM now to ensure that these provisions aren’t watered down by appeals, and that they’re incorporated in another critical upcoming decision–the BLM’s review of 65 illegal leases in the area.  Here’s the good news:

First, any new leases issued in inventoried roadless areas will have to carry “no surface occupancy” stipulations. This is a common-sense requirement reinforcing the ban on road construction in roadless areas. In practice, it means that any company buying a lease in a roadless area will be able to develop it only by drilling from outside the area boundary. This will help protect areas that are critical for water production, wildlife habitat and backcountry recreation, as well as helping ecosystem resilience in the face of climate change.

Second, much of the Thompson Divide will be closed to further leasing. But please note that there are a lot of caveats to this. About half of the Thompson Divide is already leased, and existing leases aren’t affected by this plan (it applies only to future leasing). Furthermore, the plan leaves the far western part of the Thompson Divide open to future leasing, and it doesn’t say anything about the southwestern part of the Divide (because that area is in a different national forest). Finally, the leasing closure isn’t permanent – it’s only for the life of the plan (about 20 years).

It’s called a “final” plan, but in fact it’s not a done deal until all the appeals have been settled – and we won’t be surprised if industry groups appeal to try to undo these protections. That’s why it’s so important for us to tell the Forest Service to stick to its guns–click here to send them an email now.

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