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NOLS and OIA Lead Protest Against Utah Oil and Gas Lease Sales

Outdoor Recreation Interests Joined Forces to Urge BLM to Defer Leasing Land Bordering the Green River Until Impact of Oil and Gas Activities Are Assessed

 

The fourteen parcels of land in contention border a segment of the Green River, which is currently being assessed for federal protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
© Deborah Sussex

The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) and the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) launched a formal protest against the September sale of 14 oil and gas leases bordering the Green River above Desolation Canyon in Utah. Over 200 parcels, totaling more than 350,000 acres, were auctioned on September 8, 2004.  In separate letters sent to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) prior to the sale, both OIA and NOLS denounced the auction, citing the loss of outdoor recreation treasures that are integral to the economy of eastern Utah. The Outdoor Industry Association’s letter was co-signed by Utah-based businesses Black Diamond and Petzl America, as well as American Whitewater, a kayak user group, and Outward Bound, an organization with significant operations on Utah’s rivers.

The fourteen parcels of land in contention border a segment of the Green River, which is currently being assessed for federal protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The stretch of river that would be impacted by the lease sale is highly used and widely recognized as a world-class river. NOLS, one of the premier teachers of outdoor skills and leadership, operates nearly a third of its Utah river-based courses in that segment of the Green River, and sees significant potential for growth if additional leasing can be prevented.

For the past year and a half, the outdoor recreation industry has engaged in an intense dialogue with the state of Utah in order to identify and protect Utah’s recreation gems.
© Deborah Sussex

The outdoor recreation industry expressed serious concern over the impact of existing oil and gas development on the recreational experience in the area, and contends that further development may drive recreational users away. The current and projected oil and gas wells already amount to intensive land use not contemplated in the management plans for the area, and the BLM’s proposed lease activity goes against the recreation vision put forth in those plans.

"The Green River will lose its appeal for recreational and educational use if its shorelines are developed further for oil and gas activities. The section of river above Desolation Canyon targeted by the sale is key for our operations and those of numerous outfitters, and includes an important launching point," said John Gans, Executive Director of NOLS.

New management plans, which include assessments on the suitability of the Green River for Wild and Scenic River status, are near completion.  OIA and NOLS both requested that the BLM defer leasing on the most recreationally significant of the proposed leases until the true impact of increased oil and gas activity can be addressed and the new plans can be finalized.

For the past year and a half, the outdoor recreation industry has engaged in an intense dialogue with the state of Utah in order to identify and protect Utah’s recreation gems. The Utah Recreation Economic Ecosystem Task Force (UREETF) was created with this purpose in mind, and is currently working on the recreation gems list. This new and intensive leasing process by BLM has moved out ahead of the Utah Task Force effort. 

“This oil and gas lease sale has the potential to impair the recreational qualities we have collectively sought to promote and protect,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of OIA. “Inclusion of these parcels will jeopardize the integrity of Utah’s precious landscapes and recreational havens, possibly yielding devastating consequences to the recreation economy of Utah. Desolation Canyon and the river stretching above and below it are outdoor recreation treasures that require special care. We urge BLM to ensure these outstanding recreation opportunities are available for generations to come.”

The BLM is still in the process of evaluating the lease sale protests. NOLS and OIA continue to work with the agency to minimize the impact of oil and gas development on the Green River corridor. We will provide progress reports in future newsletters.

About the Outdoor Industry Association

The Outdoor Industry Association was founded in 1989 and provides trade services for over 4,000 manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, sales representatives and retailers in the Outdoor Industry. Members include recognized brands such as JanSport, Columbia, Nike, Eagle Creek, The North Face, Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear, Sierra Designs, Timberland and many others. OIA has member companies in every state of the U.S. Many of OIA's members are national specialty stores with location and employees across the country, such as REI, EMS and Galyan's. OIA programs include: industry research, representation in Washington, D.C., educational programs, consumer outreach and cost-saving benefits. OIA is headquartered in Boulder, Colorado. For more information go to: http://www.outdoorindustry.org

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