Utah - White River Basin

State: Colorado, Utah

In 2015, the Dinosaur Trail Master Leasing Plan was finalized, and generally supoported by conservation groups - although some worry that it does not do enough to protect sage grouse habitat. The plan “addresses oil and gas development for the 1.7 million acres of leasable federal minerals managed by the White River Field Office, and guides oil and gas development in Colorado’s Piceance Basin for the next 20 years.” It is a targeted planning effort to minimize resource conflicts and impacts to the Dinosaur National Monument, as well as other nearby resources from oil and gas development. The MLP provides important strategic direction for leasing and development on 357,800 acres of federal minerals in the northwest corner of the field office. The MLP includes specific stipulations to minimize visual and noise impacts to sensitive resources near Dinosaur National Monument.

While it assumes up to 15,000 more wells, the plan has conservation measures that indentify and protect more than 137,000 acres of land with wilderness characteristics, along with 82,800 acres already designated as wilderness study areas. The majority of minerals administered by the White River Field Office have already been leased for oil and gas development. Deer numbers in the area have declined following drilling there and the population is now less than half of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s long-term goal of 67,500 deer. The plan  offers an incentive-based approach for existing leases to minimize the amount of surface disturbance and disruption to wildlife

The White River Basin contains some of the best fish and wildlife habitat in the Colorado River Basin.  From its headwaters in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area, to downstream of Meeker, the White River is one of Colorado’s finest coldwater fisheries.

Keeping this system intact is important for a number of reasons.  The presence, and the opportunity for expansion, of native Colorado River Cutthroat Trout in the basin’s high-elevation tributaries makes the White a candidate for landscape-level protection.

These fish thrive in the cold, clear high-country tributaries to the White, and their value to the overall fishery is immeasurable. The area supports hunting and fishing tourism. This type of outdoor recreation is vital to the area, with more than 192,000 visitors annually who spend more than $6.7 million supporting local, sustainable jobs.