Bush Administration Accelerates Oil and Gas Leasing in Rockies

The Bush administration, as part of its broader effort to accelerate oil and gas development on the Rocky Mountain front, is moving ahead with plans to lease large tracts of environmentally sensitive land in Utah and southwestern Wyoming. This has prompted protests from varied quarters, including a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton signed by 100 members of Congress. Enviro groups noted that many of the tracts being leased were eligible for federal wilderness status, and that the land, projected to be worth about $80 an acre in annual revenue, was leased for $20 per acre per year, a rather generous bargain for oil and gas companies, many of which were large Bush contributors. One such contributor, Stephen Gose of Montana-based Retamco Operating Inc., dismissed criticism, saying that the Clinton administration — which had tried to protect the land — was “beholden to the extreme conservationists.”