BLM Ignores Public Outcry and Puts Coal in Utahn's Stockings, Approves Drilling Program for Wild White River

Stephen Bloch: 801.428.3981, Staff Attorney, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance
Sharon Buccino: 202.289.2397, Public Land Director, Natural Resources Defense Council
Suzanne Jones: 303.650.5818 x102, Central Rockies Regional Director, The Wilderness Society
Amy Roberts: 303.327.3511, Director of Government Affairs Outdoor Industry Association

December 20, 2007

SALT LAKE CITY:  Yesterday afternoon the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Vernal field office released a highly controversial decision approving 60 new natural gas wells near northeastern Utah’s magnificent White River. 

The White River is popular with river runners and families alike for its stunning scenery and flat water.  A BLM brochure promoting the White River for canoeists and other river recreation states that the river “is a place to paddle, watch wildlife, and occasionally leave the river for an unforgettable hike.  This is one of the quiet places, where solitude and a sense of adventure are still very much a part of the outdoor experience.”  All of these resources touted by BLM are at risk now that Enduring Resources, LLC’s  proposal has been approved.

In 1871 members of the John Wesley Powell expedition hiked to an overlook at the heart of the spectacular White River known as “Goblin City.”  For more than a century visitors to Goblin City have enjoyed much the same view as those members of the Powell expedition.  As a result of the BLM’s decision yesterday, those visitors will now be greeted with the sights, sounds, and smells of development, drilling, and construction.   

“We’re terribly disappointed that the BLM has signed the death warrant for Utah’s remarkable White River,” said Stephen Bloch, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “The timing of this decision so close to the holidays is no coincidence.  BLM is clearly hoping to slip in this decision unnoticed while Utahns are enjoying time off.  Utahns deserve better.”

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, and The Wilderness Society submitted detailed comments to the BLM on the proposal to heavily develop this largely pristine area.  A coalition of local river outfitters, the Outdoor Industry Association, and river-based conservation groups also submitted comments opposing the project as drafted.  The State of Utah commented on the project’s potential impacts to air quality.
In addition, BLM received over 57,000 comments from citizens across the country critical of the so-called “Rock House” project and specifically asking that BLM prepare a more comprehensive analysis and consider other competing uses of this area, including non-motorized recreation and wilderness values.  BLM rejected this massive public input out of hand, asserting that none of these letters offered any substantive comments on the proposal.

The project authorizes round-the-clock, non-stop development for the next 4-6 years as infrastructure is built and drilling operations undertaken in this remote location.  The Southern Utah Wilderness, Natural Resources Defense Council, and The Wilderness Society are reviewing BLM’s decision and evaluating their legal options to protect the White River from this heavy handed development.

 >>White River Photos

Related Documents:
Outfitter Comment Letter
State of Utah Comment Letter
SUWA Comment Letter
BLM Brochure on the White River area 



All active news articles