Four parcels totalling 6,137 acres in the HD Mountains southeast of Bayfield are proposed to be leased for oil and gas development. The lease sale by the Bureau of Land Management is scheduled for May 12 in Lakewood. The proposal is up for public comment and protest until 4 p.m. on March 14.
The largest parcel, four sections, is at the head of the Spring Creek drainage. Just to the north is a parcel covering three sections. To the north of that is a parcel of two sections. The smallest parcel is about a half section at the head of Armstrong Canyon.
Oil and gas leasing in the HDs was authorized over local opposition in an Environmental Impact Statement conducted in the early 2000s. Much of the covered area is roadless. It also provides winter range for deer and elk.
Opponents cited the maze of access roads and pipeline cuts that could accompany gas development, especially along the spine of the HDs along the Pine-Piedra Stock Driveway.
The parcels proposed for lease are about a mile west of the stock driveway, according to San Juan National Forest geologist Walt Brown.
According to the BLM notice of the pending sales, San Juan National Forest officials have been working on an Oil and Gas Leasing Availability Analysis since 2001. It was completed in 2013, and the last three years have been spent on implementation. During that time, around 200 lease proposals have been on hold. Brown told the Times those are scattered around the San Juan National Forest.
How does the leasing analysis relate to the EIS?
"The (Northern San Juan Basin) EIS made project-level decisions on existing leases," Brown answered. "The Oil and Gas Leasing analysis made decisions for new leasing. The NSJB EIS did not make any leasing decisions. The NSJB EIS made project-level decisions for gas field development on existing leases. The 2013 Record of Decision for Oil and Gas Leasing Availability identified which lands on the San Juan National Forest are available or not available for mineral leasing. Appendix H of the 2013 SJNF Forest Plan contains stipulations attached to leases issued for available lands."
The first proposed leases "will focus on federal minerals with high potential for oil and gas development that are adjacent to previously leased and developed minerals," according to the information Brown provided.
He stressed that the HD leases have a lot more surface protections than previous leases have had, including stipulations of no surface occupancy.
Comments on the proposed leases can be sent to the BLM Colorado State Office, 2850 Youngfield St., Lakewood CO 80215.
Maps and associated environmental analyses are online at www.blm.gov/co/st/en/BLM_Programs/oilandgas/oil_and_gas_lease/20160/march_2016.html.