Draft plan for Moab region is a stride toward a 21st century management program

Dark night skies over Canyonlands National Park. 

Kait Thomas, NPS. 

The Bureau of Land Management released a draft leasing plan that could protect wildlands surrounding Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently unveiled its Moab Master Leasing plan, which could guide energy development away from sensitive areas that are too wild to drill, including some of Utah’s most beloved landscapes like Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

The new plan is a significant step toward better BLM management of oil and gas resources in a region that is home to some of the most inspiring and significant landscapes in the West.

Reduced threat to national treasures

Increased energy development in eastern Utah has fueled air pollution that threatens human health and internationally acclaimed dark night skies, as well as recreation opportunities that contribute millions of dollars to the state’s economy each year. The draft master leasing plan will help curb these threats by guiding development away from the region’s most sensitive areas.

In addition to protecting the areas surrounding Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, the plan will guide development away from wild places such as Fisher Towers, Porcupine Rim, Six-Shooter Peaks and Goldbar Canyon.

Other wild places like Labyrinth Canyon and Indian Creek could still be threatened by oil and gas development, but the draft master leasing plan is already an encouraging first step toward a smarter, more modern approach to leasing on public lands.

The bigger picture: smarter management for a brighter future

With more than 90 percent of BLM resources available nationally for leasing, the BLM must find better ways to permit development while safeguarding wild places and other values of public lands. There’s still work to be done, but master leasing plans represent a significant stride in the right direction.

“Some of our most treasured places are at risk from development and master leasing plans are a way of identifying what could be the right places for energy while also committing to conserve places where drilling and mining shouldn’t happen,” said Nada Culver, senior director for agency policy at The Wilderness Society. “With an MLP, we can all play from the same rulebook – knowing what to do and how to do it. Master leasing plans like the Moab MLP and others around the West are modernizing the way we do business on our public lands.”

The plan will help the BLM better manage oil and gas development and potash mining to avoid conflict with other resources on more than 900,000 acres of public land in eastern Utah. Now, both industry and the public will have more certainty about the ground rules for future development.