Some of Utah’s most beloved wild lands will be offered up to the oil and gas industry in December, courtesy of an administration that appears bent on ignoring the wishes of the public.
On Election Day, the Utah office of the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM — a division of the Bush administration’s Department of Interior — announced that a Dec. 19 lease sale of state lands would include oil and gas leases near the beloved Arches and Canyonlands national parks, along with eastern Utah's Dinosaur National Monument.
Despite National Park Service protests that the lands near the parks should be withdrawn from the sale, the BLM announced Nov. 25 that it would defer only a small portion of the parcels that are close to the parks,
Also on the auction block for the upcoming lease sale are parcels in iconic Utah areas, such as Desolation Canyon and Green River.
That’s disaster enough, but unfortunately, the Dec. 19 lease sale is only a symptom of a much more serious disease defined by six huge resource management plans that were finalized by the Utah BLM in October and November 2008. These fast-tracked plans roll back protections for wildlife, sensitive species, rivers and streams, cultural resources, and "areas of critical environmental concern” in 11 million acres in southern and eastern Utah.
Through the plans, millions of acres will be opened to off-road vehicle use and oil and gas development. The administration’s plans also place unsurveyed archaeological artifacts, wildlife habitat, and rivers and streams in harm's way.
The Wilderness Society’s BLM Action Center has been tracking these plans and working to ensure that they don’t extend the Bush administration’s devastating environmental policies for another two decades. Find more information about the upcoming Utah lease sale and the six Utah land-use plans here.