"Wilderness quality" lands in the Uinta Mountains and basin area could coexist with oil and natural gas production as well as outdoor enthusiasts with only a few concessions, according to a report by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) field office in Vernal, UT.

BLM earlier this month issued a supplemental report to its 2005 Draft Vernal Resource Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (DRMP/EIS). When it is adopted, the RMP would determine land use plans for the next 10-15 years for the 1.7 million acres of public land and 1.9 million acres of subsurface mineral estate lands around the Book Cliffs, Uinta Mountains and the Uinta Basin.

The supplemental review evaluated 34 "non-Wilderness Study Area (WSA)" lands near the White River, Lower Green River and Dinosaur National Monument on the Utah-Colorado border. Of the areas surveyed, BLM determined that 25 areas encompassing 277,600 acres had the scenic beauty, cultural resources, wildlife and recreational opportunities "associated" with "wilderness characteristics."

Because of the review, BLM added a fifth alternative (Alternative E) to the proposed DRMP/EIS. "This alternative emphasizes managing those lands to preserve and protect their wilderness characteristics," BLM stated. In the original 2005 DRMP/EIS, BLM's preferred alternative suggested opening 983,000 acres to oil and gas leasing and allowing about 6,300 wells to be drilled. Under Alternative E, which takes into account the WSA lands, about 6,117 wells would be allowed to be drilled -- about 200 fewer wells.

Public comments on the supplemental DRMP/EIS will be accepted through Jan. 3. Both the supplement and the DRMP/EIS are available electronically at www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/vernal/planning.html. Written comments should be sent to: BLM Vernal Field Office RMP; Comments Attention: Kelly Buckner, 170 S. 500 East, Vernal, UT, 84078. For more information call (435) 781-4445.

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