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The US Forest Service has issued approval for the proposed Uinta Basin Railway

Adam Chang
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Unsplash

On Monday, the US Forest Service issued a draft proposing approval for a right of way through the Ashley National Forest, for the Uinta Basin Railway. 

A group of over 30 conservation organizations including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, the Audubon Council, and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, wrote to the Forest Service Chief over a month ago requesting a meeting to discuss the potential environmental impacts of the proposed railway but never heard a response. The Forest Service did meet with supporters of the project last month. 

Deeda Seed is a Senior Public Lands Campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity and said, “It’s appalling that the US Forest Service is approving a right of way for a railroad project that will quadruple fossil fuel extraction from the Uinta Basin”.

Greg Miles is a Duchesne County Commissioner, and he said he is confident that the environmental impacts have been appropriately taken into account through an environmental impact study. “We've gone through the environmental impact study with various agencies that are involved, gone through cultural, environmental, sensitive species surveys, to be able to, to get through approval.”

Miles, and the coalition, believes this railway would bring economic growth to the Basin, and address some of the volatility of an extractive industry based economy. “The price of oil will determine how much drilling happens at any given time, but what we hope to see is bottoming you know, to raise that bottom, in the roller coaster ride and so that we have a more steady, sustainable economy that will also help sustain other economic opportunities”, said Miles.

Opponents of the project are shocked that a federal agency such as the Forest Service is supporting something that would drastically increase carbon emissions, especially while President Biden is in Glasgow discussing climate change. Seed said, "“These two things are entirely inconsistent. Here we have the Biden administration, greenlighting a project that is going to introduce 53 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere per year. And yet, he's talking about a climate crisis.”

There will now be a 45 day public comment period on the right of way, after which the Forest Service will work to address any objections.

 

Ellis Juhlin is a science reporter here at Utah Public Radio and a Master's Student at Utah State. She studies Ferruginous Hawk nestlings and the factors that influence their health. She loves our natural world and being part of wildlife research. Now, getting to communicate that kind of research to the UPR listeners through this position makes her love what she does even more. In her free time, you can find her outside on a trail with her partner Matt and her goofy pups Dodger and Finley. They love living in a place where there are year-round adventures to be had!