Utah’s wild canyonlands are once again threatened by oil and gas leasing – this time by a little known state agency, the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration or “SITLA.” This past Monday, SITLA held an auction for oil, gas, and other mineral leases that cover some of Utah’s most iconic landscapes, including Muddy Creek, the Dirty Devil, and several scenic parcels within eyeshot of Canyonlands National Park. Please ask Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to protect these sensitive lands so they are no longer vulnerable to such threats.
View from Harts Point, one of several
proposed wilderness areas threatened
by SITLA’s lease sale.
The leases sold at the auction comprised a hit list of special places and wilderness-quality lands in the Greater Canyonlands region. SITLA offered 29 separate lease parcels for oil and gas development or mineral development that impacted lands proposed for protection in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, setting the stage for new well-pads, roads, pollution, and other destructive impacts associated with drilling. The largest grouping of parcels lies within the Harts Point, Shay Mountain, and Bridger Jack Mesa proposed wilderness areas, all of which sit just east and south of Canyonlands National Park. This gives you an idea of where SITLA parcels conflict with wild lands in Utah and their proximity to Canyonlands National Park.
The Greater Canyonlands region is a landscape of jaw-dropping beauty and unsurpassed wilderness. Three rivers – the Colorado, Green, and Dirty Devil – come together in a stunning labyrinth of deeply incised gorges, towering mesas, and a mind boggling maze of sinuous canyons. Archeological artifacts abound; the striking stone architecture of the ancient Puebloan and Fremont cultures stands essentially undisturbed across the terrain. These national treasures were sacred to many in the past and continue to inspire and draw visitors from around America and the world.
The threat to these lands posed by the SITLA oil, gas, and mineral leases is compounded by the additional threats of tar sands and potash mining, and the damage inflicted by off-road vehicle (ORV) use in ecologically and archeologically sensitive areas. The fragmentation of the region’s management, as demonstrated by this lease sale, only serves to magnify these threats. In order to sustain the natural and cultural resources of this great piece of our national heritage, the Obama administration should act to ensure that the Greater Canyonlands region receives the greatest possible protections. Please tell Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to protect the Greater Canyonlands region today!