DENVER (CBS4) – It was one of the most heated exchanges in the last presidential debate — an argument over oil and gas production on federal lands. Now some big changes could be coming for companies that drill on U.S. Forest Service land in the central mountains.

In the White River National Forest, which is made up of over two million acres along the Interstate 70 corridor, one-third of the available lease land could be eliminated as the Forest Service is getting ready to adopt a new policy that would changes gas leases.

“To determine where and under what conditions we’ll allow leasing in the future,” Scott Fitzwilliams with the White River National Forest said.

The new 600-plus page policy on the table would eliminate more than 100,000 acres currently open to a gas lease.

“Llands that just geologically don’t have a lot of oil and gas, they’re mineralized and there’s never been any proposal, there has never been any development, there’s never been any drilling. We’d just closed those under management direction,” Fitzwilliams said.

Still about a quarter of a million acres are open, mostly on the Western Slope.

“We recognize that there are some areas, as oppose to others, that people get very emotional and they want to give us input and give us comment on how to best do that,” Fitzwilliams said.

Environmentalists say no gas leasing should occur on public land, but some industry experts say this just isn’t enough. Now the public will have until the end of November to have their voices heard.

“It gets people extra time and I encourage that. It’s a complicated document. It takes a lot of reading and we want to give people proper time,” Fitzwilliams said.

There is no current gas drilling going on in the White River National Forest but there are just about 30 well that are still producing gas.


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