Last Friday, Utah BLM released the long awaited draft Moab master leasing plan (or Moab MLP) for a 90-day public review and comment period.
BLM kicked off the master leasing plan process in May 2010 in direct response to litigation that SUWA and our partners brought in the last days of George W. Bush administration to stop oil and gas leasing on the door step of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and other remarkable wilderness landscapes. After we successfully blocked the sale of the infamous “77 leases” and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar withdrew them from sale, there was consensus that the Obama administration needed to do better.
The plan released last week will give BLM the tools to protect roughly 750,000 acres of remarkable public lands around Moab that are illustrative of what Americans think about when they imagine Utah’s redrock country. Places like Porcupine Rim, Fisher Towers, Six-Shooter Peaks and Goldbar Canyon will be protected from the sight and sound of pump jacks and other oil field equipment. As things stand today, these places and many others in the region are vulnerable to the devastating impacts of oil and gas leasing and development, as well as potash mining.
At the same time, the master leasing plan will provide for better management of oil and gas development and potash mining to avoid conflict with other resources. The MLP will also give industry certainty where leasing and ultimately development could take place, and companies will understand the terms and conditions for those activities
Master leasing plans are one example of the Obama administration’s early promise to better balance protection of wild places, local economies, and energy development. The White House’s Council on Environmental Quality acknowledged as much as it blogged last week about the genesis of the Moab MLP and its potential to bring long needed balance to some of the west’s most significant landscapes.
Predictably, the Moab MLP is far from perfect and leaves critical landscapes unprotected. For example, under the current “preferred alternative” the Labyrinth Canyon stretch of the Green River and its stunning side canyons remain open to leasing and development. With your help, we will work to ensure that this classic Utah landscape is protected.
BLM has scheduled three open houses in late September and early October in Moab, Monticello and Salt Lake City and will also be accepting comments via email and letter. Look for updates from us in the coming weeks with suggestions about how to get involved.