Fossil Fuel Leasing Resumes on Public Lands, First Sales Announced
After a long pause, the Biden administration has resumed oil and gas leasing on America’s public lands, albeit with some reforms. On Monday, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced its first lease sales for 2022, which included one Utah parcel totaling roughly 158 acres in the Vernal area.
The BLM’s new approach to leasing focuses on enhanced Tribal consultation, and analysis and consideration of greenhouse gas emissions. It also includes a first-ever increase in royalty rates that operators pay the federal government for producing oil and gas (from 12.5% to 18.75%). The agency also said it will aim to avoid “important wildlife habitat and migration corridors and sensitive cultural areas.” These improvements aside, the resumption of leasing puts public lands at risk once again, does little to alleviate gas prices, and hampers national efforts to address the climate crisis.
“We dodged a bullet this time in Utah with BLM’s decision to only offer one lease at its upcoming sale but are disappointed that the Interior Department has resumed oil and gas leasing on public lands across the West,” said SUWA Legal Director Steve Bloch. “By offering leases now, BLM is simply propping up speculative leasing and foreclosing other uses of these public lands. It’s an open secret that there is little connection between lands offered for lease, the number of wells drilled, or the price of gas at the pump. We know that without quickly transitioning away from fossil fuels, the Intermountain West and, in particular, the Colorado Plateau will bear the brunt of a hotter, drier, and more unpredictable climate”
Photo © Kevin Walker
Travel Planning Process Continues, Draft Plan for Labyrinth Area Expected Soon
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) continues its multi-year travel planning process that will decide where motorized vehicles are and are not allowed to travel on roughly six million acres of public land in southern and eastern Utah.
The agency has made recent progress on several of these plans. In February, the Kanab field office opened public scoping for travel planning in the Paunsaugunt travel management area (TMA) just west of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (thanks to all who submitted comments!). This gave us an opportunity to review the network of routes the BLM is considering designating as motorized and to raise issues the agency must analyze moving forward. The Paunsaugunt TMA includes not only spectacular redrock wilderness but also a high concentration of unique and important cultural resources. Some of these resources lie within potential vehicle routes and are thus at literal risk of being run over and destroyed.
Looking forward, we expect to see a draft travel plan for the Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges TMA (Moab field office) in early May. As always, we will need your help to ensure that the BLM embraces management practices that protect Utah’s spectacular redrock wilderness.
Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA
Wild Utah Podcast Catches Up with SUWA’s Stewardship Program
Since its inception a few years back, SUWA’s Stewardship Program has aimed to foster a stewardship ethic and promote service as recreation in Utah through opportunities to work directly and actively to preserve and enhance the wilderness character of Utah’s public lands.
So what does all of that mean—for volunteers and for the redrock wilderness? Tune in to our latest Wild Utah podcast to find out! You’ll be transported to a recent stewardship project in the Canyon Rims area (featuring voices from a couple of inspiring University of Utah Alternative Break students) while hearing all about SUWA’s stewardship philosophy from one incredibly dynamic duo: Stewardship Director Jeremy Lynch and Stewardship Coordinator Jack Hanley.
SUWA Has Several Job Openings—Help Us Spread the Word!
SUWA is growing and changing again, and that means we are hiring! Multiple positions are currently open for organizing staff, a DC director, and a seasonal field technician. If you or someone you know is interested in joining our hardworking, passionate team of wilderness warriors, check out the details at suwa.org/jobs.
Still Available (While Supplies Last): Limited-Edition Items Celebrating Utah Monuments
With all that’s going on both locally and nationally these days, you’d think Utah politicians would have better things to do with their time (and taxpayer money) than continue their indefensible attack on Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments. Instead, the State of Utah is preparing to sue over President Biden’s celebrated restoration of these magnificent landscapes. Show your ongoing support for the monuments with our limited-edition collection of colorful stickers, magnets, and T-shirts featuring local Utah artist Josh Scheuerman’s amazing artwork. You can find them, while supplies last, at suwa.org/goodies, or click SHOP at the top of our home page.