For years, NRDC has been working with local partners to protect pristine roadless areas in national forests, including those in the White River National Forest in Colorado. The White River National Forest is an iconic Colorado treasure. Its stunning mountains are home to a dozen major ski areas including Vail and Aspen. The forest is visited by people from around the world for the many outdoor recreation opportunities it offers. And as the most visited national forest in the country, it brings in much-needed tourism dollars for local communities.
Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the 2.3 million-acre White River National Forest also has priceless wilderness areas and provides essential habitat to many wildlife species including Canada lynx, moose, bighorn sheep, native Colorado River cutthroat trout and peregrine falcons. It also hosts the biggest elk herd in the world.
And it provides clean drinking water for millions of people downstream. In other words, it's an outdoor paradise--and no place for dirty oil and gas development, including drilling and fracking, that can destroy the landscape.
Nevertheless, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had issued 65 oil and gas leases in roadless areas of the White River National Forest without any environmental review--which is against the law. The agency recently went back to the drawing board and conducted a new analysis of the leases. The BLM's proposed action as a result of this analysis is a start--it calls for full cancellation of 18 leases and partial cancellation of seven. But the BLM needs to go much further by wiping the slate clean and canceling all 65 illegally issued leases.
If these oil and gas leases are allowed to go forward, this spectacular roadless ecosystem could be industrialized by a web of drilling pads and roads, its clean air and water contaminated by dirty fracking pollution, and its valuable wildlife habitat carved up and fragmented. Instead, the agency should take any new areas off the table for leasing, and instead focus on powering the future with clean, renewable energy.
The BLM is accepting public comment on this issue until January 8. Please sign NRDC's petition, found here, urging the BLM to cancel all oil and gas leases in the White River National Forest's roadless areas.