For Immediate Release Contact: Marvin Roberson:(517) 484-2372
June 8, 2005 Rusty Gates: (989) 348-8462
Anglers, Sierra Club Join Forces to Protect the Au Sable River
Unusual Alliance Files Lawsuit to Block Drilling, Protect Michigan’s Heritage
An alliance of anglers, environmentalists and the descendants of a visionary conservationist have teamed up to stop the desecration of one of the nation’s most important conservation gems, the Mason Tract on the South Branch of the Au Sable River in Michigan—the site on which Trout Unlimited was founded. The Anglers of the Au Sable, the Sierra Club and the family of George Mason today filed a lawsuit in US District Court Eastern District of Michigan seeking to overturn a Forest Service decision allowing oil and gas drilling adjacent to the 5,300 acre Mason Tract.
“We don’t fish in their oil wells, and they shouldn’t drill in our rivers,” said Rusty Gates, President of the Anglers of the Au Sable and former Angler of the Year in Fly, Rod and Reel Magazine. “I’ve been fishing on this river for 40 years. The Au Sable is one of the most special places we have in Michigan, and we want to be able to take our kids and our grandchildren here.”
The Forest Service has rejected alternate sites, including one that already has oil and gas production facilities, and is adjacent to a public road. Instead, the Forest Service is allowing Savoy Energy Company to push forward with their drilling plans in Huron Manistee National Forest, endangering the river that launched Trout Unlimited. The Forest Service has ignored thousands of comments from people all over the country calling for the protection of this pristine waterway, where thousands of Michiganders go fly-fishing each year.
The Mason Tract was deeded to the State of Michigan in the 1950’s by George Mason, a prominent industrialist whose gift came with the requirement that “no part shall ever be sold”.
“The Mason Family has joined this fight because the Forest Service proposal goes against everything my grandfather sought to do by giving the Mason Tract to the people of Michigan,” said Tim Mason. “We have been absolutely opposed to drilling for oil and gas in this area from the start, and will continue this fight until George Mason’s vision and legacy is secure.”
Sierra Club’s Marvin Roberson called the Forest Service decision irresponsible, noting that, “We are joining with the angling community to show that everyone has a right to explore, enjoy and protect the planet. Michiganders should be able to enjoy fishing on this river fifty years from now, a hundred years from now—it’s part of the Michigan way of life.”