May 15, 2007
Brian O’Donnell, Director, Public Lands Initiative (970) 903-0276
Chris Hunt, Communications Director (208) 406-9106
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Trout Unlimited applauds congressional effort to prevent Roan Plateau drilling
GRAND JUNCTION—Trout Unlimited representatives expressed their support for a congressional initiative announced this morning that would prevent oil and gas drilling on the top of the Roan Plateau in western Colorado.
“We are very pleased that Reps. Salazar and Udall are taking this action,” said Brian O’Donnell, director of TU’s Public Lands Initiative. “Local sportsmen have consistently noted the importance of this area for its fish and wildlife habitat and its hunting and angling opportunities.”
The Roan is home to two virtually genetically pure “conservation populations” of Colorado River cutthroat trout, as well as trophy-quality mule deer and elk herds, a vibrant upland game bird population, and huntable populations of black bear and mountain lion.
The Bureau of Land Management issued a proposed management plan for the Roan Plateau that calls for drilling on top of the plateau. Without Congressional intervention, the area could be leased for oil and gas in the coming months. Reps. Salazar and Udall said today they would ask the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee to limit the funding needed by the BLM to lease the top of the plateau for eventual drilling. The one year funding limitation would give local communities more time to come up with a plan to protect the Roan.
“The trout and wildlife of the Roan Plateau have more long-term value than the gas below it,” said John Trammel, a representative of the Grand Valley TU chapter in Grand Junction. His chapter has invested hundreds of volunteer hours doing restoration work atop the plateau in an effort to protect the fragile Colorado River cutthroat trout habitat in streams atop the Roan. “Keeping it the way it is right now is the right thing to do for wildlife and for those who visit the Roan to fish and hunt. Anything Congressmen Salazar and Udall can do to protect this special place would be greatly appreciated.”
The BLM has acknowledged in the past that the bulk of the natural gas beneath the plateau could be accessed using directional drilling techniques from the base. Drilling and the associated industrial development atop the plateau is unnecessary, O’Donnell said, and would require the construction of miles upon miles of industrial-grade roads leading from well pad to well pad.
“It’s been proven time and again that roads interrupt big-game migration routes and bisect habitat that’s important to deer and elk,” O’Donnell said. “They also cause erosion, which can choke the life out of small trout streams like those found on the Roan. From a sportsman’s prospective, drilling the top of the Roan would trash some very productive fishing and hunting ground.”