Conservation Groups Applaud Release of Moab Master Leasing Plan

Jul 20th, 2016 Written by suwa

Obama Administration plan correctly prioritizes protection of Utah’s stunning redrock lands, provides certainty to all stakeholders about future mineral development

Nada Culver, The Wilderness Society, 303.225.4635
Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981
Anne Hawke, Natural Resources Defense Council, 202-329-1463

Salt Lake City (July 20, 2016):  Today the Bureau of Land Management released a long awaited plan that will guide energy and mineral development away from sensitive lands near Canyonlands and Arches National Parks and many outstanding proposed wilderness areas that are too wild to drill. The BLM’s Moab Master Leasing Plan will help the agency better manage oil and gas development and potash mining to avoid conflict with other resources on more than 785,000 acres of public land in eastern Utah.

“Simply put, the Moab Master Leasing Plan is a significant step toward better BLM management of oil, gas and other minerals in the heart of Utah’s red rock country,” said Stephen Bloch, Legal Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The MLP gives industry certainty where leasing and ultimately development can take place and also makes plain the terms and conditions for those activities.  Likewise, the public and local communities now know that many of southeastern Utah’s stunningly beautiful canyons and mesas won’t be marred by the sight and sound of drill rigs and pump jacks. BLM’s hard work on this plan has definitely paid off.”

Fisher Towers, La Sal Mountains beyond, Near Moab, Utah
The Moab MLP protects the Fisher Towers proposed wilderness from the sights and sounds of oil and gas development. Copyright Tom Till

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.  Also, the dramatic effects of climate change are becoming increasingly evident in southeast Utah’s already arid Colorado Plateau region. With more than 90% of BLM lands and minerals available nationally for leasing it has been incumbent on BLM to find better ways to safeguard wild places and other values of public lands.  Master leasing plans fit that need.

“Some of our most treasured places are at risk from drilling and speculative leasing.” said Nada Culver, senior director for agency policy at The Wilderness Society. “Master leasing plans, like the Moab MLP, are the right way to manage oil and gas on our public lands – with a vision of where energy development can be managed and where other values, like wilderness and recreation, need to be protected. Moving forward with the Moab MLP and others around the West in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, is modernizing the way we do business on our public lands.”

Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA
Under the Moab MLP, surface disturbing activities will be prohibited in the Goldbar Canyon proposed wilderness. Photo credit: Ray Bloxham/SUWA

“This plan ensures a more deliberate process that will better protect vulnerable wilderness lands from wanton exploitation. Many such areas in southeast Utah are too precious and too special to be leased and developed without adequate safeguards.” observed Sharon Buccino, Director of the Land and Wildlife program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The Moab MLP takes the following specific steps:

  • Protects wild places that are currently under threat from oil and gas leasing and development, including Fisher Towers, Porcupine Rim, Six-Shooter Peaks and Goldbar Canyon.  These landscapes would either be closed to future leasing or subject to “no surface occupancy” stipulations that prohibit physical development on the lease.
  • Provide strong protections for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks’ classic southern Utah vistas, dark night skies and clean water.
  • Require that the majority of all future leases issued in the MLP area be subject to common sense ‘controlled surface use’ stipulations. These are essential to give both industry and the public certainty about the ground rules for future development.

The plan does not:

  • Prohibit all oil and gas leasing and development in the planning area. Instead, leasing and development may proceed in a more thoughtful and deliberate manner.
  • Prohibit all potash leasing and development in the planning area.  Rather, the Plan establishes three ‘potash leasing areas’ where these activities are concentrated.

BLM continues to work on another Master Leasing Plan efforts in Utah to better balance development and conservation in the San Rafael Desert, located immediately west of the Moab Master Leasing Plan.  BLM also continues to make progress on other MLPs in places like Western Colorado and Southwestern Wyoming.

Additional resource: Photos of lands protected by the Moab Master Leasing Plan.