Chevron drops leases

  Chevron USA surrendered all of its oil and gas leases in the Bridger-Teton National Forest near Jackson Hole, Wyo., last month. The surprise release of both its new 1993 leases and older ones dating back to the early 1980s may spare the 60,000-acre Willow Creek roadless area from drilling. Chevron says it backed off the controversial exploration plans for economic reasons after a $6 million test well struck a dry hole. However, in a letter to the Wyoming Bureau of Land Management office, Chevron land manager Richard Hughes said the move "renders moot" a lengthy appeal of its Willow Creek oil and gas leases by the Jackson Hole Alliance for Responsible Planning, and asked the BLM to dismiss the case. Jeanne Klobnak, public lands director for the alliance, says the surrender is a mixed blessing. Had the appeal been heard and won, it could have had a significant impact on oil and gas leasing of national forests nationwide. But, Klobnak adds, the decision is still a victory for Willow Creek.