The threat to wild landscapes surrounding Canyonlands and Arches national parks continues unabated.  Fidelity Exploration and Production Co., a Denver based oil and gas operator, has already sunk wells near the entrance to Island in the Sky and Dead Horse Point State Park.  The company now seeks approval to push its web of development to the west and south.

The expansion would bring highly visible pumpjacks, pipelines, and miles of new roads into the Labyrinth Canyon and Hatch Point proposed wilderness areas, essentially rimming the northeastern boundary of Canyonlands National Park with oil and gas development.

Fidelity’s Hatch Point project proposal falls within the proposed Bears Ears National Monument.  The area features dramatic redrock formations and some of the nation’s most brilliant night skies.  Adding insult to injury, the company proposes to flare natural gas from each well in Hatch Point rather than collect and transport the gas to produce energy.  The flared gas will be visible from within Canyonlands National Park and will further degrade air quality in the region.

With its recent proposals to develop Labyrinth Canyon and Hatch Point (above), Fidelity Exploration and Production Co. seems bent on rimming the northeastern boundary of Canyonlands National Park with oil and gas development. Copyright Neal Clark/SUWA.

Compound Impacts
Each of the two Fidelity projects alone will have a significant adverse impact on, among other values, air quality, cultural resources, and wilderness-caliber landscapes.  Combined, the impacts will be enormous: construction and drilling of up to 69 wells, “upgrading” more than 31 miles of existing two-track routes into “resource roads,” construction of several new roads, and installation of more than 23 miles of new pipelines.

These two terrible proposals are the result of unbalanced and outdated land use plans that favor energy development over every other use of our public lands.  Despite that, for decades SUWA has successfully fought to protect the Labyrinth and Hatch Point regions, so there is still hope for the future.

The fight is far from over.  SUWA has submitted comments on both proposals, and with your support and help (and a little luck: think Bears Ears National Monument!) these remarkable landscapes will remain unspoiled for decades to come.

—Landon Newell

(From Redrock Wilderness newsletter, autumn/winter 2015 issue)