July 28, 2005
Contact: Corey Fisher (406) 721-1002
SALT LAKE CITY – A new U.S. Forest Service oil and gas lease sale in the Diamond Fork area of northern Utah is premature given that protests to previously filed lease sales have yet to be resolved, according to national coldwater fisheries conservation group Trout Unlimited.
The new lease sale, which would open more Forest Service land for oil and gas exploration in the Diamond Fork, Fifth Water Creek and Sixth Water Creek drainages southeast of the Salt Lake City metro area, is happening too fast and without the proper oversight as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.
“There are protests still unresolved on existing lease sales,” said Corey Fisher, an oil and gas coordinator with Trout Unlimited’s Public Lands Initiative. “The need to answer the concerns of hunters and anglers regarding the ongoing lease sales is greater than the need to move forward and open more public land to development by private industry.”
The Diamond Fork River and Fifth Water and Sixth Water creeks are home to vibrant populations of Bonneville cutthroat trout and brown trout, making the area a high-quality recreational fishery for anglers all over northern Utah, Fisher said. In fact, the Diamond Fork River and Sixth Water Creek are candidates for Blue Ribbon status, the highest-quality the state of Utah bestows on a fishery. Opening the land to oil and gas drilling could have detrimental effects on the fishery, as well as on the big game populations of the area. Water quality in the region could also suffer.
“It’s unfortunate the Forest Service feels the need to move so quickly with these leases,” Fisher said. “They’re not giving enough credence to the hunters and anglers and the people who live here. These are the people who will have to deal with the long-term impacts of the industrial activity. They should have a say in the matter. It’s in their best interest that this development is done right, and until protests are resolved on existing leases, moving ahead with new ones is a bad idea.”