The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has formally protested leases on more than 86,000 acres of federal lands in Utah, where development as proposed could negatively affect vast expanses of important habitat for game species, as well as hunting and fishing opportunities. The group contends that fish and wildlife species jeopardized in the March 24 lease sale includes mule deer, elk, pronghorn, waterfowl, sage grouse and Gunnison grouse.

The massive sale constitutes close to 160,000 acres of Utah public lands and encompasses 15,000 acres overseen by the Bureau of Land Management's Fillmore Field Office, where the agency's proposal to forgo detailed environmental analysis in opening the region to energy development has drawn criticism from a range of diverse interests.

The TRCP recently led a consortium of sportsmen's groups in objecting to BLM plans to permit leases on more than 4 million acres following only a bare-bones environment assessment that fails to adequately analyze the impacts of drilling on the area's trout and big-game populations.

“Utah's federal public lands and their abundant fish and wildlife and hunting and fishing opportunities draw sportsmen from across the country,” said Joel Webster, TRCP's associate director of campaigns. “Certainly, oil and gas development is an important use of these lands. But any development must be pursued carefully and be subjected to rigorous upfront planning if we're to continue enjoying our shared natural resources. The leases slated for sale to the energy industry in March currently do not include these critical checks and balances.”

Other leases protested by the sportsmen are located in Utah's popular Book Cliffs big-game hunting unit and in areas northeast of Monticello inhabited by mule deer, elk and Gunnison grouse. Gunnison grouse have suffered a 90-percent loss in historic habitat, and only eight extant populations of the birds remain.