Guest Blog: The Race to Save the San Rafael Swell

Kids_in_SwellAs you have probably heard, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently announced its intention to sell 50 oil and gas leases covering more than 79,000 acres of proposed wilderness in the San Rafael Swell.

Now the race is on to let the BLM and the Obama administration know that some places are too precious to drill.

And here is one way you can help citizens who love the Swell win that race: attend the “Don’t’ Drill the San Rafael” rally on Monday, September 16, at Noon at the BLM Headquarters in Salt Lake City.

Last weekend I ran another race – an actual half marathon through the heart of the San Rafael.

IMAG0256_BURST015I ran with almost all of my wife’s family, the eight of us ranging in age from 31-75.  We all wore shirts proclaiming a message we thought would be self-evident to anyone running through the beauty of this sandstone paradise, “Don’t Drill the San Rafael.”

My wife’s family, which have roots in the local community of Castledale, introduced me to the San Rafael when I began dating her 20 years ago, and I’ve been back every year since.

IMAG0235The route for the race wound through the Buckhorn Wash, one of the places I love the best. Winding my way on foot along 13 miles of desert road, past massive red rock cliffs towering majestically against the blue sky, I wondered how we could ever imagine that the scant amount of oil underground was worth more than the beauty of this unmolested landscape.

It seemed unthinkable that this magnificent area, once vetted as a possible National Park, and more recently suggested for national monument designation by former Utah Governor Michael Leavitt, should become nothing more than a drop of gas for our tanks.

This is especially true because there is no need to sell these particular leases.  Oil and gas companies already hold leases on over 3 million acres of BLM land in Utah which they have yet to drill.

As the Salt Lake Tribune has editorialized, the larger problem behind this lease sale is the “resource management plans” adopted by the BLM under former President George W. Bush and which laid the groundwork for BLM to offer these leases – plans the Obama administration needs to overturn.  As the proposed San Rafael lease sale demonstrates, these imbalanced plans throw Utah’s public lands open to oil and gas leasing without adequate regard for how energy extraction could harm scenic, recreation, archeological, wilderness and wildlife values.

Help us finish the race my family and I began last weekend.  Come to the rally and let BLM — and the Obama administration — know that “we the people” will not allow a national treasure to be sacrificed for an unneeded and foolhardy drilling disaster.

Peter Danzig (center) with his family at the finish line.

Peter Danzig is an award winning musician and songwriter. He performs with his wife (and often his three daughters) as Otter Creek. You can read more about him on his blog at or listen to Otter Creek’s version of Utah Slim’s anthem against drilling in the San Rafael.