For Immediate Release

Contact: Stephen Bloch, SUWA Staff Attorney, (801) 486-3161 x.16

SUWA FIRES SHOT ACROSS SITLA BOW
AGENGY MUST TAKE CLOSER LOOK AT NATURAL TREASURES BEFORE LEASING TO OIL COMPANIES

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Bourdette Draw Proposed Wilderness Unit
Eagle Canyon Proposed Wilderness Unit

January 24, 2003

Salt Lake City, UT— In an unprecedented move, Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (“SITLA”) has decided to offer over 21,000 acres of school trust lands located in wilderness quality lands for oil and gas leasing and development.  The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (“SUWA”) has challenged SITLA’s decision as contrary to its mandate to preserve unique and important lands and resources for Utah’s public schools and school children.  In addition, SUWA contends that SITLA’s decision to lease these lands violates Utah state law that requires an assessment of irreplaceable cultural resources before the agency sells these leases.

“By turning these lands over to the oil companies, SITLA is forever depriving the public and Utah’s school children the opportunity to learn from these unique landscapes,” said Stephen Bloch, SUWA staff attorney.  Located in some of Utah’s wildest country, this lease sale puts a number of important resources at risk, including:

  • Many plant and animals species identified by the State of Utah as “sensitive” because of their limited distribution and numbers;
  • Irreplaceable cultural sites such as rock art panels and dwellings, and;
  • important wildlife habitat (including mule deer and Rocky Mountain elk)

 

Bloch added that, while SITLA lands are generally available for economic development, other means exist which can provide funding for schools and still protect the land.  Trades or transfers to other agencies with a protective mandate are an attractive option, and one the Utah Supreme Court recommended where SITLA development puts unique resources at risk.

            SITLA’s January 2003 oil and gas lease sale includes:

  • 20 separate oil and gas lease parcels totaling over 11,500 acres in protected Bureau of Land Management wilderness study areas,
  • An additional 9000 acres in other wilderness quality lands, and included in America’s Redrock Wilderness Act.  

 

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