Oil and Gas Development Archives - Page 3 of 21


  • June 6th, 2017

    Terrific news! The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has pulled back an outrageous proposal to lease federal public lands for oil and gas development at the doorstep of Zion National Park.

    And it was citizen action that made the difference!

    The problem emerged this past winter when the BLM identified two parcels near Zion for inclusion in a September 2017 oil and gas lease sale. The parcels of land are less than two miles from the park boundary, lay clearly within the park’s viewshed, and are traversed by the Kolob Terrace Road – a popular access route to the backcountry portion of the park. The parcels also abut the town of Virgin and are transected by a popular mountain bike trail.

    View across lease parcels pulled by the BLM thanks to citizen outcry. Copyright Luke Henry/SUWA

    Local citizens, supported by conservation groups including SUWA, jumped into action. Several hundred people packed a local information meeting in the tiny community of Virgin. In response to the encouragement of local residents, the towns of Springdale and Toquerville passed resolutions against leasing. The Washington County Commission, concerned especially about impacts to water resources, followed suit. Two dozen local businesses joined together to write the BLM. And letters poured in from around the country. In total, more than 40,000 people wrote comments objecting to the proposed lease sale.

    The public outcry even captured the attention of Utah’s Governor Gary Herbert. In a letter to the BLM, Governor Herbert asked that leasing be deferred, stating that oil and gas development in the area would threaten the recreation and tourism based economies of local communities and noting that the area was “not ideal for extraction.”

    SUWA offers a big thanks and congratulations to everyone who helped. This victory is a great reminder that even in these tough times we can prevail in protecting Utah’s wild places when citizens join together to speak out!

  • May 31st, 2017

    Longstanding litigation over six BLM-Utah land use plans and travel management plans brought to a close

    An order issued today by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit clears the way for BLM-Utah to begin implementing a comprehensive settlement agreement that will result in the completion of 13 new off-highway vehicle travel management plans over the next 8 years across eastern and southern Utah.  The settlement agreement marks the end to longstanding litigation filed in 2008 by a coalition of conservation groups which challenged six land use plans and travel plans that were completed at the end of the George W. Bush administration and designated a spider web of approximately 20,000 miles of routes where off-highway vehicles could drive on federal public lands.  The settlement requires BLM to revisit these decisions across more than 6 million acres of federal public lands, minimize the impacts of off-highway vehicles on cultural resources and wilderness landscapes that provide opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation and monitor for illegal use.

    BLM-Utah will also consider the designation of three areas of critical environmental concern (ACECs) and update and prepare air quality-related reports and studies that will inform future BLM decisions regarding oil and gas development.  The settlement agreement can be viewed here.

    The settlement agreement was reviewed and approved by a federal district court judge in Salt Lake City.  In his order approving the settlement agreement, senior district court Judge Dale A. Kimball stated that the settlement “is a fair and lawful resolution of years of litigation” and is consistent with applicable federal law.

    The BLM-Utah plans at issue guide land management decisions across more than 10 million acres of federal public lands in eastern and southern Utah, including some of the nation’s most remarkable red rock wilderness landscapes.

    • “With the settlement agreement in place we will work to make sure that BLM-Utah’s new travel management plans fully account for and protect Utah’s unique cultural resources and red rock wilderness lands,” said Stephen Bloch, Legal Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The negotiations leading up to the settlement agreement were hard fought and contentious.  In the end, we came to a place that provided sufficient certainty to the conservation groups that BLM would take seriously its responsibilities to minimize the impacts of off-road vehicle use on all public resources, including wilderness.”
    • “This proposed settlement is good news for Utah’s iconic public lands, including the lands surrounding Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and Dinosaur National Monument,” said Robin Cooley, Earthjustice Attorney representing the conservation groups. “BLM must take a fresh look at where it will allow off-highway vehicles to drive, this time with an eye towards protecting the very things that make Utah’s redrock country so special–its wildness, opportunities for solitude, and irreplaceable archaeological sites.”
    • “These amazing lands deserve thoughtful management for uses other than motorized recreation and oil and gas development, which are prioritized in the current plans,” said Nada Culver, Director the BLM Action Center at The Wilderness Society. “We hope to get to work on updated plans and management decisions once the settlement is approved.”

    Photos of proposed wilderness areas in new “travel management areas” contemplated by the settlement agreement can be found here.

    The following conservation groups are plaintiffs to the litigation and parties to the settlement agreement: Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, The Wilderness Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, National Parks Conservation Association, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Rocky Mountain Wild, Great Old Broads for Wilderness and Utah Rivers Council.

    The parties to the settlement agreement include the conservation groups, the off-highway vehicle group-intervenors, and the Bureau of Land Management.  Several intervenors, including the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration and four oil and gas companies, do not oppose the agreement.

    The conservation groups were represented by attorneys from Earthjustice, SUWA, NRDC, and the law firm of Waltzer, Wiygul and Garside.

  • March 6th, 2017

    The Bureau of Land Management’s Saint George field office is preparing to lease for oil and gas development approximately 4,730 acres of federal public land at its upcoming lease sale. Two of the parcels are located less than two miles from Zion National Park along the Kolob Terrace Road, a popular tourist route. Oil and gas development in this area will be visible from the gateway community of Virgin as well as from inside the park, threatening pristine night skies, air quality, and tourism.

    Tell the BLM that Zion’s backdrop is no place for pumpjacks and drill rigs.

    Zion Lease Sale Parcels (Luke Henry)
    View across lease parcels 42 and 43 at the outskirts of Zion National Park. Copyright Luke Henry/SUWA

    The proposal to lease for oil and gas development on the doorstep of Utah’s most popular national park has been met, unsurprisingly, by strong opposition. Local residents packed the Virgin Community Center to express their concerns during a public meeting with BLM officials, and both the Washington County Commission and the Town of Springdale (gateway to Zion National Park) have passed resolutions in opposition to the lease sale.

    Add your voice by sending a message to the BLM today.

    The agency needs to know that it is unacceptable to auction off for private development the views, experiences, and heritage of one of Utah’s crown jewels. The more than four million annual visitors to the park come to be inspired by its beauty and grandeur, not to see views spoiled by pumpjacks, drill rigs, and wastewater pits.

    The BLM is accepting public comments through this Thursday, March 9th. Click here to submit your comments now.

    Thank you!

  • February 22nd, 2017

    The Bureau of Land Management’s Saint George field office is preparing to lease for oil and gas development approximately 4,730 acres of federal public land at its upcoming lease sale. Two of the parcels are located less than two miles from Zion National Park along the Kolob Terrace Road, a popular tourist route. Oil and gas development in this area will be visible from the gateway community of Virgin as well as from inside the park, threatening pristine night skies, air quality, and tourism.

    Looking east-southeast across lease parcels 42 and 43 at the outskirts of Zion National Park. Copyright Luke Henry/SUWA

    The BLM’s proposal to lease for oil and gas development on the doorstep of Utah’s most popular national park has been met, unsurprisingly, by strong opposition. Local residents packed the Virgin Community Center to express their concerns during a public meeting with BLM officials, and the Washington County Commission passed a resolution in opposition to the lease sale, noting that Zion National Park is “an internationally recognized showpiece” and “the scenic nature of the area surrounding [the park] contributes to the beauty, economy, and recreational values in Washington County.”

    The BLM is accepting public comments through March 9, 2017. Click here to submit comments now.

  • January 12th, 2017

    Utah’s most popular National Park threatened by sight and sound of development

    For Immediate Release: January 12, 2017

    Contact:
    Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991
    Cory MacNulty, National Parks Conservation Association, 801.521.0785

    SALT LAKE CITY – National Park advocates, local residents and conservationists are stunned over a just announced proposal by the St. George field office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to offer two oil and gas leases less than two miles from Zion National Park in southwestern Utah.  If developed, the two parcels could easily be seen from Utah’s most popular national park.  The parcels are also next to the rural residential gateway community of Virgin and dissected by the North Creek drainage – a perennial stream which flows into the Virgin River, a designated National Wild and Scenic River.

    DryCreek4

    Proposed lease area in Dry Creek proposed wilderness. Photo copyright Luke Henry/SUWA

    “This is a completely inappropriate location for oil and gas leasing and development,” said Steve Masefield, former Chairman of the Virgin Planning and Zoning Commission and a town resident.  “Drilling on these leases would not only degrade the scenic vistas enjoyed by visitors driving to Zion.  Nearby rural neighborhoods would be devastated by industrial smells, noise, lighting and traffic.  Our water – and the water used by communities downstream – could be polluted.”

    “As a life-time resident and a retired owner of several hospitality and tourist-related businesses in Springdale, Utah, I know how crucial the greater Zion National Park area is to our visitors and local residents alike,” said Louise Excell.  “I cannot imagine how visitors will feel as they discover pump jacks and flares from oil and gas drilling are visible from both inside and outside the park.  Not only will the sight be jarring for visitors and residents, but other important natural resources and quality of life will be affected, including diminished air quality, loss of natural soundscapes, and night skies.”

    There are currently no producing wells in this region, and BLM is under no requirement to offer these parcels for lease.  Moreover, the oil and gas industry has roughly 2 million acres of BLM-managed lands in Utah already under lease that they have not developed.  Despite the extensive leased lands, in 2016 the drilling of new oil and gas wells in Utah reached a 30-year low.  There is clearly no need to offer these two leases for sale and put Zion National Park and the surrounding region at risk from mineral development.

    “With over 4 million annual visitors to Zion National Park, BLM should be working collaboratively with the National Park Service to protect – not threaten – the world class resources those visitors come to enjoy and be inspired by,” said Cory MacNulty, with the National Parks Conservation Association.  “The doorstep to one of America’s ‘Best Ideas’ is not the place for oil and gas leasing and development.”

    “BLM’s proposal to sell these two leases is déjà vu all over again.  Just like its proposal in 2008 to sell leases adjacent to Arches and Canyonlands National Park and Dinosaur National Monument, this is an entirely ill-conceived plan that should be rejected,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “This lease first, think later approach to oil and gas leasing has been rejected time and time again.  It’s hard to understand what would compel BLM to propose offering these parcels but whatever their motivation, BLM should rethink its proposal which threatens Utah’s most popular National Park.”

    The two oil and gas lease parcels near Zion National Park, as well as a third parcel located adjacent to the Black Ridge Wilderness Area, are proposed for sale at BLM’s June 2017 competitive oil and gas lease sale (environmental assessment available here).  BLM is accepting comments on its controversial proposal through February 10, 2017 (more information available here).

    The proposed lease parcels overlap lands identified by BLM as possessing wilderness characteristics (i.e., outstanding opportunities for solitude and recreation) and which are proposed for Wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, H.R. 2430, S. 1375 (114th Congress).

    Photographs taken from the lease parcels are available here.

    ###

    About Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance
    The mission of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is 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, visit www.suwa.org.

    About National Parks Conservation Association
    Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.

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