Oct. 24, 2007
Scott Linn, president, CO River Headwaters chapter, (970) 531-8250
Kathy Lynch, TU Western Energy Counsel, (307) 734-1807
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Trout Unlimited protests oil and gas leases
in Grand, Jackson, Moffat counties, and SW Colorado
BLM fails to consider impacts of drilling on native Colorado River cutthroat trout
GRANBY, Colo.—Trout Unlimited on Wednesday officially protested a Bureau of Land Management lease sale that would put prime wild and native trout habitat on the auction block and open the door for oil and gas drilling in areas of acute value to hunters and anglers two of Colorado’s iconic high-country basins and in the southwest corner of the state.
The sale parcels encompass important wild and native trout habitat in Jackson, Grand, Dolores and Moffat counties, and include tributary and mainstem waters in the North Platte, Colorado and Yampa river drainages in northern Colorado and in the Dolores River drainage to the south. Some of the streams are home to rare and native Colorado River cutthroat trout and others in the North Park area of Jackson County are simply excellent wild trout streams important to Colorado anglers who chase rainbow, brown and brook trout in these waters. Hunters, too, have a stake in this lease sale—some parcels envelope prime deer, elk and upland game bird habitat.
“This lease sale is indicative of the BLM and its mad rush to drill new country, despite the existing values these places harbor,” said Scott Linn, of Granby, an avid hunter and angler and the president of the Colorado River Headwaters chapter of Trout Unlimited. “These areas are extremely important to hunters and anglers—the habitat for fish and game is just excellent. The parcels along the Colorado River are in areas where the river is already stressed due to water diversions to the Front Range. With the area’s assets and its water-related challenges, you have to ask, ‘Why here and why now?’
“For sportsmen, this sale could be a real mess, and the fact that we’re just hearing about this is troubling—there’s been no public involvement that I’ve been aware of.”
TU is most concerned with the lease sale’s potential impact on conservation populations of native Colorado River cutthroat trout in the Colorado, Yampa and Dolores river systems. Some of the proposed parcels encompass small headwater populations of these fish, which occupy only about 10 percent of their native habitat in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Colorado River cutthroats are feeling the pinch from the BLM’s aggressive leasing and drilling strategy all over the West, from western Colorado’s Roan Plateau to the Wyoming Range south of Jackson Hole, Wyo., to the Strawberry River country of northeastern Utah.
What’s more, according to Kathy Lynch, TU’s western energy counsel, many of the leases occur in proven coal country, which leaves the option open for coal-bed methane development in the area. The process of extracting methane involves the removal of substantial amounts of subsurface water, which is often laden with salt and other pollutants. Disposal of this water could have impacts on fish and fish habitat within or near the lease parcels.
“The BLM hasn’t undertaken any of the required studies on the impacts of coal-bed methane extraction in the West, so to the extent CBM development is even a possibility, these leases are very premature,” Lynch said. “If parcels are leased before the studies are completed, it would be difficult for the BLM to impose necessary leasing restrictions in the future.” Energy legislation approved in 2005 directed the BLM to study coal-bed methane extraction and formulate a report outlining the risks of the activity to Congress. The study has never been done.
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization. TU has over 155,000 members from coast to coast.