January 29, 2009
Corey Fisher, (406) 721-1002
David Nickum, (303) 440-2937
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
TU Files Protest of Colorado Energy Lease Sale
Proposed development threatens Colorado River cutthroat trout habitat
DENVER — On Wednesday, Trout Unlimited filed an official protest of a proposed Bureau of Land Management energy lease sale that involves nearly 100,000 acres of public land in Colorado. The sale is currently scheduled for Feb. 12. TU cited concerns over energy development in valuable fish and wildlife habitat included in the sale as the main reason for filing the protest with both the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service. TU also urged the agencies to complete a revised set of land-use plans for the proposed lease areas before offering any leases.
“The problem is that the federal agencies are relying on old land use-plans and not taking into account the fact that the proposed leases are in areas where new land-use plans are currently being written,” said Corey Fisher, Energy Field Coordinator with TU’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project (SCP). “Some of those existing plans were written 10 or even 15 years ago. It’s important that the new land-use plans are finished and that proper protections for habitat are in place before they consider leasing these areas.”
Included in the sale are nearly 60,000 acres identified as native Colorado River cutthroat trout habitat, including areas in the Colorado River Cutthroat Conservation Area. While the Colorado River cutthroat trout was denied listing as an endangered species in 2007, the fish is still considered a “sensitive species” by the U.S. Forest Service. The state’s remaining populations of the only trout native to the upper Colorado River Basin are currently managed by a team of biologists from the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the BLM, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. TU contends that the proposed lease sale violates a multi-agency agreement that pledges to implement conservation measures for the trout.
“That’s another reason why we filed the protest with the BLM and the forest service,” Fisher said. “It’s a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.”
Energy development on other parcels of land involved in the proposed sale could have a detrimental impact on some of the state’s best trout streams, Fisher added. “The leases in North Park could damage the Gold Medal fishery on the North Platte River. The North Fork of the Gunnison, the upper Yampa and waters in the Grand Mesa area could also be affected.”
Trout Unlimited supports the responsible development of domestic oil and gas on our nation’s public lands, but TU believes development must take place in a manner that protects the irreplaceable fish and game habitat these lands harbor.
“We’re not calling for a ban on energy development. We’re asking all parties involved to step back, take a deep breath and finish the land-use plan revisions before proceeding with any leases,” Fisher said.
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization, boasting over 150,000 members from coast to coast. TU’s mission is to Protect, Reconnect, Restore and Sustain trout and salmon habitat in the United States.