Forest Service signs off on additional Pawnee National Grassland oil and gas leasing

The Final Record of Decision for the Pawnee National Grassland Oil and Gas Leasing Analysis was signed by Forests and Grassland Supervisor Glenn Casamassa on Feb. 9. This decision was consistent with the Draft Record of Decision released Dec. 2.

This analysis, which began in 2013, determined what additional lands with federal mineral rights could be leased on the Grassland.The decision was to select the No Surface Occupancy alternative.

“After a thorough analysis, I think this decision balances our obligation of management of the unique lands of the Pawnee National Grassland and the responsibility to the American public,” Casamassa said. “Allowing mineral access with no surface occupancy allows for resource development while minimizing the overall environmental impact on the Pawnee.”

Recently, oil and gas management has been conducted under the 1997 Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland Forest Plan direction. Much has changed both in technology and interest since then, leading to this leasing analysis. The purpose of this analysis was to consider and disclose any new information relevant to environmental effects that may not have been anticipated during the 1997 Forest Plan to determine if different management direction and/or leasing stipulations are necessary to protect National Forest System lands (potential surface impacts).

The Environmental Impact Statement analyzed three alternatives in detail, including No Action Alternative (continuing to utilize 1997 Forest Plan direction), No Lease Alternative, and No Surface Occupancy Alternative (the Forest Service selected alternative). The No Surface Occupancy Alternative allows for extraction of all the oil and gas resources while providing the most protection of surface resources and opportunities for other multiple uses of the grasslands. This alternative results in no surface disturbance of the unleased portion of the PNG and the fewest projected wells and well pads on the landscape.

The Forest Service is responsible for determining leasing availability on NFS lands, and is also responsible for approval of all surface disturbance associated with oil and gas exploration, development, production and reclamation activities on the NFS lands. The Bureau of Land Management oversees leasing and royalties for federal minerals, including oil and gas, and is responsible for environmental reviews of potential sub-surface impacts of proposed leases.

Project information is available online at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/arp/PNGLeasingAnalysis.

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