Interior Department protecting Utah rivers from wrong threat

Last month, Interior Secretary Gale Norton splashily announced the Three Rivers Withdrawal: Nearly 200 miles of prized territory along Utah’s Green, Colorado, and Dolores rivers would be withdrawn from consideration for new hard-rock mining claims. The proposal had been on her desk for 18 months, so some enviros suspected the timing of the announcement had quite a bit to do with burnishing Bush’s tattered environmental credentials during an election year. But hey, protections are protections, right? Well, not so much. According to a review of Interior Department land-use records by the Environmental Working Group, mining is not what most threatens the area. The real threat is oil and gas development — and oh yeah, three days before Norton’s announcement, the Bureau of Land Management auctioned off oil and gas leases on some 5,000 acres of territory surrounding the rivers.