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USFS releases West Elk draft decision

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The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest, Bureau of Land Management, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, and Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety has announced the availability of the Forest Service's draft record of decision and supplemental final Environmental Impact Statement for two federal coal lease modifications and an on-lease exploration plan for West Elk Coal Mine. Ark Land, LLC and Mountain Coal Company, LLC requested the modifications to expand their existing coal leases by a total 1,720 acres located near Somerset.

Three alternatives were considered in detail during the environmental analysis. After reviewing numerous comments from the public and input from natural resource specialists, the draft decision would consent to both proposed lease modifications with stipulations for the protection of non-mineral, surface resources. The Bureau of Land Management will decide whether or not to grant lease modifications or to authorize on-lease exploration consistent with lease terms.

Most of the area is part of the Sunset Colorado Roadless Area under the Colorado Roadless Rule; however, it is situated within the North Fork Coal Mining Area, which provides for construction of temporary roads and other short-term disturbances related to underground coal mining.

The draft decision is subject to a 45-day objection period, beginning the day the legal notice is published in the Federal Register, Sept. 8, and ending at midnight, Oct. 23. Objections will only be accepted from those who have previously submitted timely and specific written comments regarding the proposed project during scoping or other designated opportunities for public comment.

More details about the objection process, the draft ROD and the SFEIS will also be available online at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=32459.

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