Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance * Coalition of National Park Service Retirees

For immediate release: July 14, 2006

Contacts: Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801/486-3161 x. 3981

 
State Agency Rejects Proposal to Sell Oil and Gas Lease Underneath Green River and Adjacent to Dinosaur National Monument


SALT LAKE CITY An oil and gas lease sale previously scheduled to be held this summer by the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and Sovereign Lands (Division) of a 17 acre parcel beneath the bed of the Green River and adjacent to Dinosaur National Monument in northeastern Utah has been cancelled.  Following broad public opposition to the sale, the Division decided to withdraw the lands from leasing for an indefinite period.  This stretch of the Green River is popular with river runners and is easily seen from many roads and trails within the national monument. 

“We are pleased that the Division withdrew this spectacular stretch of the Green River from oil and gas leasing,” said Stephen Bloch, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “The Division’s decision fits with its own management plans for this area which recognize that this stretch of the River is more important for recreation, wildlife, and scenic values than for oil and gas development.”

“We strongly support the Division’s decision to withdraw these lands from oil and gas leasing.  Oil and gas development on the doorstep of Dinosaur National Monument would have clearly harmed the incomparable values and benefits for which Dinosaur National Monument was established,” said Denny Huffman, member of the Executive Council for the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees and former Superintendent of Dinosaur National Monument.

In addition to receiving comments from SUWA and the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, the Division received a letter from a coalition of river-runners and outfitters and numerous individual Utahns opposing the lease sale.  A copy of the river runners/outfitters letter as well as a map of the lease parcel are available below.

The Division is charged by Utah’s Constitution to protect and preserve the visual, wildlife and open space values on what are called “sovereign lands” on behalf of all Utahns.  Sovereign lands comprise the lands underlying navigable waters within the state (for example, the Green and Colorado River beds and the bed of the Great Salt Lake).  These lands are managed according to the “public trust doctrine,” which requires that the state put the long term protection and preservation of natural resources above short term economic gain.

 According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the state of Utah holds approximately 1% of the United States’ proven oil and natural gas reserves.  http://www.eia.doe.gov/.  In addition, like most Western states, there is a surplus of Utah BLM lands that are already leased by industry for oil and gas development, but are not in production, as well as a surplus of approved drilling permits. Between 2001 and 2005, the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining approved 5,077 permits to drill new oil and gas wells in Utah (a figure that includes BLM and Division managed lands). At the end of 2005, there were 2,044 approved drill permits from that five-year period that had not yet been drilled (see our Oil and Gas Fact Sheet).

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