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WASHINGTON – Threats to prime big-game range and hunting opportunities on Utah public lands compelled the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership to protest an August 19 Bureau of Land Management energy lease sale, the sportsmen’s group announced today. The TRCP protest encompasses 86,000 acres, nearly all located in Iron County near Cedar City and Zion National Park. Similar concerns forced the group to protest a lease sale inWyoming last month; the BLM responded on Monday to the TRCP action in Wyoming by withdrawing part of the contested acreage from the sale.

“Opening these particular areas to oil and gas drilling without the proper planning most certainly would damage crucial big-game habitat and, consequently, hunting opportunities and the economic boost that sportsmen bring to Cedar City and nearby communities,” said TRCP Field RepresentativeJoel Webster. “Here, we have a chance to plan energy development the right way. Yet the BLM persists in relying on a broken system and in moving forward with the same old tired, business-as-usual approach that clearly does not adequately balance the needs of wildlife and sportsmen with energy development.

“The TRCP supports responsible energy development that is pursued in accordance with the best available science regarding game populations,” continued Webster, a lifelong hunter and angler. “In the case of the Iron County leases, however, the federal government has undertaken the absolute minimum amount of planning in order to rush this prime habitat into the hands of the energy industry. And once the lands are leased, we can do very little to moderate or change the way oil and gas drilling will occur.”

Of the Utah parcels being protested by the TRCP, nearly all contain crucial winter range or fawning habitat for mule deer and elk. Some of the parcels also include crucial pronghorn habitat. Energy development can significantly affect habitat use and survival of numerous game species.

“Those of us who care about the future of our nation’s outdoors and hunting and fishing traditions are profoundly discouraged by the government’s failure to acknowledge the toll that energy development could take on such an important destination for sportsmen,” said TRCP Energy Initiative Manager Steve Belinda, “particularly in light of the fact that the BLM is legally required to consider the interests of multiple users in determining proper management of our federal public lands.

“If energy development is allowed to proceed in southeastern Utah as currently proposed,” concluded Belinda, “the hunting traditions enjoyed here by sportsmen might be a thing of the past.”

The TRCP believes that to better balance the concerns of fish and wildlife in the face of accelerating energy development, federal land management agencies must follow the conservation tenets outlined in the FACTS for Fish and Wildlife.

Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.