The Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) announced today it would give a three-year reprieve to a controversial lease it planned to issue in the Book Cliffs.
An agreement reached by Governor Gary Herbert, SITLA, Congressman Rob Bishop and Anadarko will delay development on the roadless or Little Creek Area of the Book Cliffs, a region coveted by hunters and anglers for its remote character and pristine habitat. This delay came at the request of sportsmen, many of whom see this area as critical component of a public lands initiative started by Congressman Bishop and Governor Herbert.
“We congratulate the Governor’s office, Congressman Bishop, Anadarko and SITLA for crafting this agreement and getting the land exchange initiative back on track,” said Ken Theis, Utah Coordinator for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “Ensuring protection for the unparalleled wildlife habitat of this unique part of the Book Cliffs was our highest conservation goal in Utah.
This agreement will provide an opportunity for long-term planning that will also benefit Utah’s school children.”
The Book Cliffs contains exceptional backcountry fishing for native trout in West Willow Creek, a Blue Ribbon Fishery and some of the highest quality habitat for big game. Every year, some of Utah’s biggest mule deer bucks and bull elk come from this remote place.
Book Cliffs leasing blindsides sportsmen, threatens to derail protection efforts
Sportsmen expressed dismay Monday after learning that the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands (SITLA) Board secretly voted to lease a large portion of the Book Cliffs, a prized hunting and fishing area in eastern Utah, for oil and gas development last week.
The Book Cliffs is a critical area for conservation in the state of Utah. The announcement threatens to derail a broad collaborative effort led by Congressman Rob Bishop to find solutions on wilderness issues in Utah, a process sportsmen have supported.
Without signaling its intentions to Congressman Bishop, Governor Herbert's office, or any other participant in that process, SITLA agreed to lease more than 80,000 acres of the Book Cliffs to a petroleum company, Anadarko.
"This was a blindside hit," said Bill Christensen, Regional Director for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. "Everyone in this process knew that we couldn't get a deal without something in it for sportsmen, and that the Book Cliffs represent a critical area for Utah's big game herds and a remarkable place to hunt and fish. We'd been discussing the area as part of a land exchange for a long time. So, to have it yanked out from under us without a word from SITLA feels like a slap in the face--not just to us, but to everyone engaged in this process."
The upcoming meetings regarding the Grand Bargain Land Exchange Initiative are an important opportunity for members to speak-up for Utah’s backcountry fish and wildlife habitat, and sporting traditions. UT BHA encourages members to participate in the meetings that will be held in eastern Utah in Castle Dale, Monticello, Moab, and Vernal.
We must tell Representatives Bishop and Chaffetz that these areas are important to us and future generations of hunters and fishermen. For a lot of us, wild public lands are very big reasons we live in Utah. It is time these members of Congress acknowledged this and considered our interests as land exchanges move ahead. We hope you can attend! For more information on these meetings, please contact BHA’s Utah Coordinator, Ken Theis.
Rep. Bishop and Rep. Chaffetz Open House
County building in Castle Dale
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers seeks to ensure America's outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands and waters.