Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance * Coalition of National Park Service Retirees

For Immediate Release: May 21, 2006
Contact: Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801/486-3161 x. 3981


COMMENT PERIOD EXTENDED TO JUNE 23RD  
State Agency Proposes to Sell Oil and Gas Lease Underneath Green River
and Adjacent to Dinosaur National Monument 

 
Upcoming Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and Sovereign Lands lease sale to include 17 acre parcel underlying popular stretch of Green River

SALT LAKE CITY    An oil and gas lease sale scheduled for July 2006 by the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and Sovereign Lands (Division) will open to oil and gas development a 17 acre parcel beneath the bed of the Green River and adjacent to Dinosaur National Monument in northeastern Utah. This stretch of the Green River is popular with river runners and is easily seen from many roads and trails within the national monument.  The National Park Service has opposed this lease sale as has a coalition of outfitters and local businesses (National Park Service and outfitter letters attached below).  The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Coalition of National Park Service Retirees have also protested the Division’s decision to offer this parcel for sale. 

“We are urging the Division not to put this spectacular stretch of the Green River on the chopping block” said Stephen Bloch, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.   “The Division’s itself recognizes that this stretch of the river is more important for recreation, wildlife, and scenic values than for oil and gas development and the Division also admits that the parcel has only low to moderate potential.”

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.

In November 2005, the Division sold several controversial leases near the famous “Spiral Jetty” in the bed of the Great Salt Lake.  Wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists have challenged that decision, which gave the green light to oil and gas exploration and development on over 120,000 acres.  This lease sale also follows on the heels of several controversial leasing decisions made over the past two years by the Utah and Colorado offices of the Bureau of Land Management to sell oil and gas leases on BLM managed lands near Dinosaur National Monument.

“We continue to be very concerned about the effects of potential oil and gas development on the incomparable values and benefits for which Dinosaur National Monument was established. The BLM and now the Division seem willing to put these values at risk. We hope the public will remind them of their obligations to protect America’s heritage areas,” said Denny Huffman, member of the Executive Council for the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees and former Superintendent of Dinosaur National Monument.

The Division will accept public input through June 23rd on whether or not to offer this parcel for sale.  Comments should be sent to Division Director A. Joel Frandsen at joelfrandsen@utah.gov.

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.

 

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