TU protests oil and gas lease sales offered by BLM: Leases could impact wild and native trout…


TU protests oil and gas lease sales offered by BLM: Leases could impact wild and native trout…

Nov. 19, 2007

Kathy Lynch, TU Energy Counsel, (307) 734-1807
Chris Hunt, Public Lands Initiative Communications Director, (208) 406-9106


TU protests oil and gas lease sales offered by BLM
Leases could impact wild and native trout habitat throughout Wyoming

CASPERTrout Unlimited on Monday formally protested a host of federal Bureau of Land Management energy lease sales across Wyoming, including leases that could imperil important trout fisheries in the North Platte, Green and Yellowstone River drainages.

The BLM plans to conduct the lease sale on Dec. 4, which will open up drilling access to public lands across Wyoming, including parcels in Carbon, Sweetwater, Uinta, Park and Bighorn counties. Many of the parcels in Carbon County are near the North Platte and Encampment Rivers, two trophy trout streams that attract anglers every year to the region, where nearly two dozen outfitters, lodges and guest ranches depend on angling and tourism traffic for economic survival.

The parcels in Sweetwater and Uinta counties are in native Colorado River cutthroat trout habitat, where industrial drilling activity could be detrimental to these conservation populations of rare trout. To the north, in Park County, two of the proposed leases would be situated along tributaries of the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River in prime habitat for increasingly threatened Yellowstone cutthroat trout.

Finally, the leases for sale in Bighorn County are likely candidates for coalbed methane development, and some of the parcels are near the Greybull River, also a native Yellowstone cutthroat stream. Trout Unlimited is unaware of any studies conducted by the BLM in Bighorn County on the potential impact of basin-wide coalbed methane development, which involves the extraction of oftentimes polluted subsurface water that would be either discharged or reinjected into the ground.

Development of these leases could have a lasting negative impact on wild and native trout from one end of Wyoming to the other, said Kathy Lynch, TUs Rocky Mountain energy counsel, who is based in Jackson. Trout Unlimited supports responsible development of domestic energy supplies. But there seems to be such a rush to lease this ground, and very little attention is being given to existing above-ground resources, especially in light of new information available regarding the impacts of development on fish and wildlife populations.

Colorado River cutthroat trout today occupy about 8 percent of their historic habitat, and Yellowstone cutthroat trout are increasingly threatened in their native range by non-industrial factors, including exotic lake trout in Yellowstone Lake, whirling disease and the introduction of non-native fish, like rainbow and brook trout. Drilling in places where these native fish still swim could have serious ramifications on the fisheries and those who depend on them, Lynch said. Also, she noted, nearly all the proposed leases are in habitat important to Wyomings big game herds and their ability to migrate to and from important winter range.

We are asking the BLM to defer leasing of these parcels until it can take a hard look at the impacts we now know arise from energy development, Lynch said. And, because of the premier fishing, hunting, and recreational opportunities in the Upper North Platte Valley, where no oil and gas development currently occurs, we believe the BLM should permanently defer these parcels from leasing.

Date: 11/19/2007