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US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management announce longer time period for information sharing on Talladega National Forest natural gas lease issue

Press Office

Washington, -

U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management officials today announced that they will allow time for additional engagement with key stakeholders, including local communities and residents, regarding pending oil and gas leases on the Talladega National Forest in Alabama. This ensures that all relevant input can inform the process moving forward.

The sale of natural gas leases on 43,000 acres on the Talladega National Forest was to begin on June 14. That sale is now on hold to allow for additional public engagement, including public informational meetings.

“The Forest Service works hard to ensure that stakeholders have ample input into the decisions of the agency with regards to the management of the public’s national forests,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Given the importance of this lease sale, we believe it is appropriate to allow for additional public informational meetings.”

“The BLM supports President Obama's ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy, which is a comprehensive effort to boost the safe and responsible production of all available domestic sources” said Acting BLM Director Mike Pool.  “As we continue to offer millions of acres of America’s public lands for oil and gas development, it is critical that the public have full confidence that oil and gas leasing is occurring in the right place at the right time in the right way.  The decision to provide the public with more time to share information and review potential lease parcels in the Talladega National Forest is part of our efforts to ensure the American public is fully engaged in this important process.”

National forests are managed for a broad range of multiple uses, from wilderness protection, to recreation, to forest management to oil and gas exploration. The Forest Service works with stakeholders and the public to balance conservation and resource extraction.

The Forest Service develops land use plans, with significant public input, that determine if and where oil and gas leasing is appropriate. If interest in leasing exists, the Forest Service gives consent for leasing to the Bureau of Land Management if the lands meet the leasing criteria contained in the forest plan. The Bureau of Land Management then manages the leasing process and issues the lease.

Oil and gas leases have been offered three times in the last five years on the national forests in Alabama (2007, 2009, and 2012), with no takers on the Shoal Creek or Talladega Ranger Districts.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Recreational activities on our lands contribute $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.