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.