SUWA back in court on winter drilling issue

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance will be back in Federal District Court Friday, December 8, 2000, to stop a Utah based energy company from drilling a new gas well on sensitive winter habitat for mule deer and elk. In addition, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources recently released a herd of big horn sheep in the area.

The preliminary injunction hearing will begin at 8 a.m. in Salt Lake City's Federal courthouse. SUWA will ask Federal District Judge Dale Kimball to stop Wasatch Oil and Gas from proceeding with a winter drilling operation in the Desolation Canyon area of eastern Utah, an operation recently approved by the Bureau of Land Management. SUWA attorneys will argue that a BLM management plan for the area restricts drilling operations on critical winter habitat between Nov. 1 and May 15 because of the adverse impacts drilling can have on wildlife population that use the area during winter months. SUWA will argue that the BLM overlooked its long standing policy when it granted Wasatch Oil and Gas it request to proceed with a wintertime drilling operation.

"This is a sound management practice that's been in place for over 15 years in this area," said SUWA attorney Steve Bloch. "The health of these big game herds will be jeopardized if this precedent-setting operation is allowed to continue. Unfortunately, the public had no chance to voice concern over this significant change in policy."

SUWA will ask Judge Kimball to stop Wasatch Oil and Gas from drilling until May of next year.


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