September 21, 2017
Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991
Michael Saul, Center for Biological Diversity, 303.915.8308
Nada Culver, The Wilderness Society, 303.225.4635
Salt Lake City: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) this afternoon released an environmental study in support of its proposal to offer 46 leases (encompassing approximately 57,000 acres) for oil and gas development on federal public land in southeastern Utah. Included in this sale are several proposed leases on the doorstep of Bears Ears National Monument.
“Leasing on the doorstep of Bears Ears National Monument is a clear indication that oil and gas companies – aided and abetted by the Trump administration – intend to push development into one of the most culturally and ecologically significant landscapes in the United States,” said Landon Newell, a staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “We intend to rally our members and the public to oppose this short-sighted scheme.”
In addition to the offering of leases near Bears Ears, BLM is proposing to sell:
- Several tracts near Moab, Utah, including in the Goldbar Canyon and Labyrinth Canyon proposed wilderness areas;
- Several tracts in a culturally rich part of southeastern Utah known as Alkali Ridge. In 2015 BLM briefly considered leasing in this area before acknowledging that it did not have enough basic information about the area and backed away from that proposal. BLM still lacks necessary cultural resource information but is nevertheless considering leasing these lands, putting cultural sites at risk; and
- Several tracts along segments of the Green River and San Juan River popular with local families, recreational business, and tourists, as well as home to several endangered fish species.
“This reckless leasing plan shows just how far the Trump administration will go to feed the greed of fossil fuel executives,” said Michael Saul, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, “It threatens the natural and cultural treasures of Bears Ears National Monument and some of Utah’s most stunning canyons, as well as irreplaceable habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse and the endangered fish of the Green River.”
“BLM is rushing to give Utah’s wild public lands to the oil and gas industry, over the objections of the American public who value these lands for recreation and our shared history,” said Nada Culver, senior counsel with The Wilderness Society. “The agency has recognized the wilderness qualities of many of these places, as well as the irreplaceable archaeological and cultural resources in the Alkali Ridge area, yet is now risking their destruction.”
BLM is accepting comments on its leasing proposal until October 23, 2017 (more information available here and here). At the end of BLM’s 2016 fiscal year, it had leased approximately 2.9 million acres of federal public land in Utah for oil and gas development (here—follow hyperlink for Table 2 Acreage in Effect). At the same time, industry had less than 1.2 million acres of those leased lands in production—less than forty percent of the total land under lease (here – follow hyperlink for Table 6 Acreage of Producing Leases).
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) believes that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature – to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive. For more information please visit: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org.
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) is dedicated to the preservation of the outstanding wilderness at the heart of the Colorado Plateau, and the management of these lands in their natural state for the benefit of all Americans. For more information please visit: www.suwa.org.
The Wilderness Society (TWS) is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than one million members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. For more information please visit: www.wilderness.org.