I am an optimist, maybe even to a fault, and its an attribute I share with many of you who love to hunt and fish. It is that mindset that allows us to conjure up visions of trout at every bend in the river, causes us to endure all kinds of weather waiting for the next hatch, or that tells us that if we cast but one more time surely a fish will rise.
That’s why over the last couple of weeks, in spite of some pretty unfavorable odds, I and my fellow Utah TU members have remained positive. Just a few weeks ago, unbeknownst to anyone here in Utah the Book Cliffs Roadless Area was leased for oil and gas by the state agency that owns it (SITLA). From a fisheries perspective that could be a negative, as a truly remarkable trout stream (West Willow Creek) runs through the heart of that country.
From a public relations perspective it was even worse, as barely a month ago we had staff from Governor Gary Herbert’s Office, Congressman Rob Bishop’s Office, environmental groups, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources employees, and SITLA staff all miles back in the backcountry looking at wildlife and working together. Two weeks later we felt betrayed, our chances appeared hopeless, and we were pretty worried about a pretty special place.
But as anglers, we know the key to catching fish is to keep fishing. Using that as our mantra we kept trying and slowly the tide began to turn. Other sportsmen’s groups joined us, Congressman Rob Bishop stepped in and said the Book Cliffs have “tremendous values beyond traditional energy resources,” and Anadarko (the energy company at the heart of the lease) promised to work closely with sportsmen. Soon thereafter Utah’s Governor spoke up asking SITLA to reconsider the entire deal.
Finally after three weeks of political back and forth I am excited to say the Book Cliffs got a last minute pardon. Today a deal was reached that would spare the Book Cliffs from development for at least 3 years. It’s a deal all of us Trout Unlimited, sportsmen’s groups, Governor Gary Herbert, Congressman Rob Bishop, Anadarko, and SITLA can be proud of. Does it mean permanent protection for the Book Cliffs, no. But it gives us a chance, a 3 year window, to find a way to do so. And as for our those odds of success, the ones that mean that we ultimately find a way to keep the Book Cliffs the same today for our kids tomorrow, well I’m pretty optimistic.