Secretary Jewell Announces Resolution of Oil & Gas Leasing Issues in Colorado’s White River National Forest

Announcement Addresses Longstanding Concerns about Potential Development in Thompson Divide by Balancing Resource Protection and Development

Last edited 09/29/2021

Date: November 17, 2016
Steven Hall, BLM Colorado Communications Director, 303-239-3672

DENVER, Colo. – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Neil Kornze today joined Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper to announce the final resolution of disputed oil and gas leases that had been issued in the White River National Forest from 1995 to 2012. The Record of Decision issued today puts in place appropriate environmental protections for the pristine portion of Colorado’s Western Slope.

“Today’s decision is a testament to the ability of individuals, businesses, governments and organizations in Colorado to work together to find solutions that make good sense for the local community, economy and environment,” said Secretary Jewell. “This resolution strikes the right balance by protecting one of Colorado’s most spectacular places and important watersheds, and ensuring that any future development is done responsibly and held to high standards.”

The Record of Decision addresses deficiencies in the original environmental analyses and process used to support the initial issuance of oil and gas leases in the region. The BLM will cancel 25 leases in the Thompson Divide area; apply new stipulations and conditions that are consistent with recent U.S. Forest Service decisions on the remaining leases that are not currently producing oil or gas; and make no or minor adjustments to the leases that are currently producing oil and gas.  

"Today is yet another example of the good we do in Colorado when we get out of corners, and meet in the center,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “This decision reflects the hard work of local governments, industry, engaged residents and our federal partners to reach a balanced solution.  This is a resolution that protects the beautiful environment of the Thompson Divide, that acknowledges the investments companies have made in the area and lets people get back to business."

The 65 oil and gas leases analyzed are primarily on lands managed by the White River National Forest, which provides outstanding outdoor recreational opportunities and is home to several of Colorado’s most popular fisheries, including the Roaring Fork River and the North Fork of the Gunnison River. Small portions are also on the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest.

The 25 leases being canceled, none of which are producing, amount to less than ½ of 1 percent of the active leases on public lands in the state of Colorado; meanwhile, the vast majority of the lands in the Thompson Divide area are used for agriculture, sporting, recreation or are simply undeveloped open space.

Today the BLM also issued a Record of Decision fully adopting the terms of the 2014 Settlement Agreement that resolved litigation surrounding the Roan Plateau Resource Management Plan. Today’s action represents the final step in the landmark settlement announced almost two years ago that brought together local, state, industry, sportsmen, and conservation leaders.

Like the Thompson Divide, the Roan Plateau is considered one of Colorado’s most ecologically diverse landscapes. It possesses dramatic topography, spectacular cliffs, waterfalls, box canyons, and an array of game and sensitive species that make it a popular destination for hunting, fishing and backcountry recreation. The Record of Decision closes the area on top of the plateau to future leasing where 17 oil and gas leases were canceled. In areas that remain open to leasing, development will be subject to the terms and conditions to ensure safe and responsible development.  

"Coloradans love their public lands," said BLM Director Neil Kornze. "Today we honor that connection by protecting some of Colorado's wildest places and providing greater certainty for oil and gas operators on the Western Slope."

“As a cooperating agency, the Forest Service appreciates the work the Bureau of Land Management has done to complete the analysis on oil and gas leases in the White River National Forest," said Regional Forester Brian Ferebee. “We look forward to working cooperatively with the BLM on future leasing and development projects on the White River National Forest.”

In addition to these decisions, the BLM also announced that it had formally adopted the 2014 White River National Forest Oil and Gas Final EIS and concurs with the Selected Alternative in the 2015 ROD. The Forest Service’s EIS governs leasing on the White River National Forest generally and identifies areas that are open or closed to oil and gas leasing. It also identifies the terms and conditions under which that development will occur (e.g., lease stipulations). For example, the Forest Service identified the majority of the Thompson Divide area as closed to leasing. The BLM was a formal cooperating agency on this EIS and has formally adopted the USFS analysis for use in its leasing decision on the White River National Forest going forward. 

All three RODs are available at:

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