SALT LAKE CITY (CN) – Three environmental groups say the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are despoiling the Uinta National Forest by re-leasing 140,000 acres, including 90,000 acres of roadless areas, to private oil and gas drillers. The Uintas, though little known outside of the Southwest, include some of the most stunning wilderness areas in the nation.
The Utah Rivers Council, the Utah Environmental Congress and the Citizens’ Committee to Save Our Canyons claims the government violated it own 2003 Forest Plan, by relying instead on 1997 environmental impact statement.
The plaintiffs say they are not seeking to block drilling in the forest, only that the 2003 plan for protecting wildlife be followed.
The 2003 plan protects riparian corridors. There is no such clause in the 1997 version.
The groups also say that when the leases were awarded, the Forest Service failed to include mandates for protecting wetlands and intermittent streams.
Recreational fishing in Utah creates 7,000 jobs in the state and about $200 million in annual wages, salaries and business earnings, $400 million in retail sales and $82 million in local, state and federal taxes. The “ripple effect” of the economic impact of angling in Utah is estimated to be $708 million.
The groups seek an injunction setting aside the Uinta leases.