Energy Company Targets Desolation Canyon Area

Nov 9th, 2015 Written by Landon Newell

Despite the dramatic drop in natural gas and oil prices, the BLM is considering approval of a large-scale oil and gas development project in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness area in the heart of Utah’s West Tavaputs Plateau. The area targeted for development is part of the larger Desolation Canyon region, which, according to the BLM itself, contains “one of the largest blocks of roadless BLM public lands within the continental United States.”

The BLM is accepting comments on this project through November 13th. Please tell the agency to keep oil and gas development out of the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness!

Desolation Canyon  (Horse Bench), Ray Bloxham
Horse Bench in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

XTO Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Exxon, is seeking approval to industrialize the remote and wild West Tavaputs by constructing and drilling up to 19 well pads, 175 natural gas wells, and miles of associated roads and pipelines. If the project is approved, the West Tavaputs will be dotted with pumpjacks, drill rigs, and haul trucks rather than greater sage-grouse, elk, mule deer, and black bear.

Please ask the BLM to protect the wild heart of the West Tavaputs Plateau.

Adding insult to injury, all vehicular traffic will have to wind its way through Nine Mile Canyon and up the dusty switchbacks of Cottonwood Canyon before reaching the proposed development area atop the West Tavaputs. Called “the world’s longest art gallery” by the BLM, Nine Mile Canyon is world-renowned for its abundance of historic and cultural sites, with more than 10,000 images etched onto its walls by prehistoric peoples. Dust from passing haul trucks could harm these irreplaceable treasures, and proposed roads would make the area more accessible to vandals.

To date, the BLM has failed to properly analyze the potential impacts to these important resources or to consider the project’s influence on climate change. It has analyzed only XTO’s large-scale proposal and has not considered any alternatives, such as limiting the project’s surface disturbance footprint to areas outside greater sage-grouse habitat, or placing pipelines along existing disturbances.

Click here to ask the BLM to properly analyze the impacts of XTO’s proposal and consider more appropriate alternatives.