Reprieve for the Uintas

  More than 218,000 acres in the Uinta Mountains near Salt Lake City have been spared the drill. Although the Forest Service approved an oil and gas exploration permit that Chevron applied for in 1989, the company announced this summer that it would withdraw. Chevron had only one hurdle left before drilling: the signature of Salt Lake BLM District Manager Dean Zeller. But the company backed out, because of the "soft oil market." Environmentalists were surprised and delighted. Members of the Utah Wilderness Association had fought the permit for years, only to lose on appeal. The group argued that the drilling site, only two miles from the High Uintas Wilderness area, would suffer permanent environmental damage. Almost half of the 270,000 acres of the North Slope of the Uintas are covered by 25-year leases similar to Chevron's (HCN 4/19/93). UWA members feared that if Chevron's explorations were successful, other companies holding leases would apply for drilling permits.