Federal agencies denounce proposed coal lease near Bryce Canyon National Park – BLM inundated by agency and public comments

In a scathing rebuke to the Bureau of Land Management’s plans to offer a coal lease near Bryce Canyon National Park, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service sent the BLM extensive comments calling on the agency to reject the proposal out of hand.

The National Park Service told BLM that “[b]ased on the proximity of the Alton Coal Tract to Bryce Canyon National Park and the combined impact to air resources/air-quality related values, night sky resources at the park and in the region, and the park’s natural soundscape, the NPS considers large scale coal extraction, as proposed in Alternatives B and C, an activity that could and will likely result in negative impacts to park resources and visitors . . .   Given these concerns and the fact that several key resource impact analyses are incomplete, missing or not in accord with national standards, the NPS recommends to BLM that Alternative A (No Action) is our preferred alternative at this juncture.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service was equally adamant in its opposition to coal leasing: “We recommend that you reject the lease application and withdraw the tract for sale.  We believe that mining activity under any of the action alternatives will result in the extirpation of the Alton-Sink Valley greater sage-grouse lek and the Alton greater sage grouse population.”

The Environmental Protection Agency told the BLM that it could not comment on the deficient draft environmental impact statement and called on BLM to prepare a supplemental draft EIS for another round of public review and comment.

In addition to these outspoken comments from federal agencies, the BLM received hundreds of thousands of comments from concerned citizens around the country opposing the proposal to lease this coal tract.

And all of this attention hasn’t fallen on deaf ears – the Alton coal story has been told over the past week in the Los Angeles Times; Washington Post; Atlanta-Journal Constitution; Salt Lake Tribune; and ThinkProgress.

There seems little question that the BLM – and the Obama administration – has heard loud and clear that this proposal should be shelved under “terrible ideas never again to see the light of day.”  With your help we will work to make sure that this is the case.