Brian Maffley, The Salt Lake Tribune
Oil and gas development on Utah’s Fishlake National Forest is still possible under a deal the U.S. Forest Service has reached with environmentalists, but it would face strict guidelines for protecting air quality and wildlife habitat.
WildEarth Guardians and the Grand Canyon Trust last week hailed the agreement as a victory because it would keep drill rigs, roads and well pads out of at least 1.3 million of the 1.7 million acres covered in a leasing plan the Forest Service approved last year.
The agency agreed to bar disturbances within four miles of sage grouse leks, the areas used for mating rituals, and withdraw 6,700 acres covered in four natural research areas from any future mineral leasing.
These and other provisions would ensure potential drilling doesn’t degrade natural values and cultural resources in the scenic, remote headlands above Utah’s fabled canyon country, according to Kevin Mueller, WildEarth’s Utah-Southern Rockies conservation manager.