Change in Energy Protocol Advocated

  • By: Fly Rod and Reel

WASHINGTON – A consortium of America’s most prominent angling businesses and groups spoke as one voice today in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, urging prompt review and revision of the federal approach to public-lands minerals leasing and criticizing the inclusion of areas of native trout habitat in an upcoming Colorado energy lease sale. The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a national conservation coalition, led the effort by the companies and organizations, which represent the interests of millions of anglers and the angling industry.

“The federal government’s approach to oil and gas leasing on public lands poses a threat to our game species and our sporting traditions,” said Jim Bartschi, president of Scott Fly Rod Company and one of the letter’s signatories. “Our consortium has a vested interest in resolving this threat. The waterways that flow across public lands shelter populations of trout, salmon and steelhead that attract anglers from all parts of the globe. They also support tens of thousands of sustainable American jobs in the manufacturing, retail and service sectors. We commend Sec. Salazar’s interest in balancing public-lands energy development with the habitat needs of fish and wildlife.”

On Feb. 12, 2009, the Colorado Bureau of Land Management intends to open approximately 80,000 acres of federal public lands to oil and gas drilling, of which more than 57,000 acres are located within designated Colorado River cutthroat trout habitat. Prized by anglers across the country, the native trout species could be jeopardized by energy development in these areas as currently proposed. The sportsmen are concerned that irresponsible resource development could result in the loss of values associated with public lands and fisheries that depend on these lands.

“In the past three to five years, our organization and others have expended considerable time and money to conserve and protect native cutthroat trout and their habitats in Colorado,” said Robin Knox, coordinator of the Western Native Trout Initiative and a signatory of the sportsmen’s letter. “We believe that energy development within the intact, high-quality watersheds that support Colorado River cutthroat trout populations could reverse these efforts and result in this important species’ further decline.

“While the Initiative supports development that is consistent with the multiple-use mandate for public lands outlined in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act,” Knox continued, “we maintain that certain habitats and species should be afforded greater protections to avoid unnecessary degradation and potential future listings under the Endangered Species Act. The Colorado River cutthroat trout is one of these keystone species.” The WNTI is a recognized National Fish Habitat Partnership.

 Initially petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act in 1999, the Colorado River cutthroat twice received a “not warranted” decision regarding its threatened or endangered status, yet it was designated a “sensitive species” by the U.S. Forest Service and is subject to special state-level management guidelines in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. By leasing areas of designated habitat for the species, the BLM would violate a multi-agency agreement pledging to “expedite implementation of conservation measures for Colorado River cutthroat trout.” 

The Colorado lease sale has drawn fire from a range of diverse interests, including citizens groups and local government, due to concerns about specific leases and the timetable for their sale to industry. The TRCP filed an official protest of the sale on Jan. 28. Protests like these are the only means for the public to participate in the leasing process.

 “The February BLM lease sale in Colorado presents a prime opportunity for Sec. Salazar to undertake review of the current mineral leasing paradigm and implement long-overdue changes in policy, protocol and management,” said TRCP Field Representative Ross Tuckwiller, a resident of Durango. “Sportsmen welcome the opportunity to work alongside the secretary in accomplishing this worthwhile objective.”

Read the sportsmen’s letter. <>