The Desolation Canyon wilderness area in the Uinta Basin of northeastern Utah is a $4 billion recreation and tourism industry that generates about $300 million a year in state tax revenue, and 65,000 jobs in recreation and tourism industry. Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1968, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) calls it the “largest unprotected roadless complex in the lower 48 states.” The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently authorized a project by Gasco, a Colorado-based natural gas company, to drill almost 1,300 new gas wells in the area.
Gasco operates the majority of the mineral lease rights in the project area which affects 206,826 acres. The majority of the acres are on BLM administered lands.
There are five alternatives to Gasco’s plan to drill in the Desolation Canyon area. The Obama administration analyzed two of them, and both would have barred drilling in Desolation Canyon. Unfortunately, the administration supports Gasco’s plan to drill in this pristine wilderness area.
The Obama administration’s decision to allow drilling is “troubling on a number of fronts,” according to NRDC’s analysis. First, the proposal is “at odds with BLM’s legal responsibility not to consider projects that impair lands with wilderness value.” Second, the pollution in the area became so severe that in 2010, the EPA declared that the Uintah Basin had the worst air quality in the nation. There are fewer than 8,000 people living in the area.
The EPA expressed concerns that drilling the area would cause air pollution and contaminate groundwater. “It is clear we share common concerns regarding protection of air quality and water quality in the Uinta Basin,” the EPA stated in a letter to the BLM.
“The Desolation Canyon region is one of the most iconic landscapes of wildness that Utah is known for,” said Tim Wagner of the Sierra Club. “People from all over the world come to Desolation every year for the many outdoor experiences. To permanently mar this area over 200 new natural gas wells is a serious error in land management decision-making.”
Let the Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar know what you think about allowing Gasco to contaminate the Desolation Canyon region by signing the petition, No Drilling In Desolation Canyon.
Photo credit: Flickr user, studentofrhythm