San Rafael Rally 2013
More than 200 people rallied outside the Utah state BLM office in September to protest oil and gas leasing in the San Rafael Swell.  Copyright Terri Martin/SUWA.

When the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said it would lease wilderness-caliber lands for energy development in the San Rafael Swell, we knew redrock advocates would be outraged. But we didn’t know the half of it.

More than 200 people turned out for a September rally we sponsored with the Sierra Club outside the BLM’s state office in Salt Lake City.  Agency employees peered down on the crowd and a sea of signs reading “No wells in the Swell!” and “Don’t Drill the Swell.”  Speakers reinforced the message that the Swell is just too precious to surrender to energy development:

—“The San Rafael Swell is one of America’s great natural canyon landscapes and one of Utah’s most prized outdoor recreational wildland gems,” said Peter Metcalf, CEO, President and founder of Black Diamond, Inc. from Salt Lake City.

—“Our children and grandchildren deserve the opportunity to experience the majestic beauty of this special place, unspoiled by oil rigs, pipelines and pollution,” said Craig Otterstrom, 76.  He’s a native of Castledale, a gateway community to the Swell, whose parents used to take him on trips into the area—a tradition he has continued with his family.

—Lauren Wood, a seventh-generation Utahn and third generation river runner whose grandfather founded Holiday River Expeditions, said leasing would forfeit “a beautiful wilderness area to industrial development.”

Nearly 5,000 people have written to the agency in opposition to the proposed lease sale.

—Terri Martin

Update: The BLM heard us!  In November, the agency made the right decision and dropped its plans to lease 80,000 acres of wilderness-caliber lands in the San Rafael Swell for oil and gas development.  Read more on our blog.

[From Redrock Wilderness newsletter, autumn/winter 2013 issue]