Shawnee Drilling, Logging Ban Lifted ; No Areas Up for Exploration

Article excerpt

A federal judge has lifted a 1996 injunction banning oil drilling and logging in the Shawnee National Forest of Southern Illinois. In a 36-page order filed last week, Judge J. Phil Gilbert lifted the injunction he imposed 17 years ago prohibiting the leasing of federal land within the forest for oil exploration and timber harvesting.

In lifting the injunction, Gilbert noted flaws in the Forest Service's 1992 forest management plan have been addressed in the agency's 2006 Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEI).

"The court is satisfied that the Forest Service has adequately cured the statement's deficiencies in its explanation of the cumulative effects on Management Indicator Species," Gilbert wrote.

"Even if it is has not been done so with the precision, organization or clarity that The Regional Association of Concerned Environmentalists or the Audubon Council of Illinois desire."

IDENTIFIES AREAS UP FOR LEASING

While Gilbert lifted the 1996 injunction, his ruling does not immediately open the doors to oil exploration within the forest.

"It simply identifies areas that are administratively available for leasing," he wrote. "This would occur only after later project- specific environmental analysis, and provides the stipulations that certain leases must contain - such as no surface occupancy in special areas."

Gilbert noted in a separate 1995 order in the case that the 1992 Forest Service plan lacked an analysis of the effects of a potential oil or saltwater spill within the forest. …

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