Blueprint for protecting Utah’s redrock lands provides more certainty for future energy development
For Immediate Release
THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY * NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL * SOUTHERN UTAH WILDERNESS ALLIANCE
Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981
Salt Lake City (December 15, 2016): The Bureau of Land Management today issued its long-awaited Moab Master Leasing Plan. The plan will steer energy and mineral development away from sensitive public lands near Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, popular recreation destinations, and many outstanding proposed wilderness areas that are too wild to drill.
The BLM’s Moab Master Leasing Plan was developed in close coordination with local stakeholders and will guide how the agency manages oil and gas development and potash mining on more than 785,000 acres of public land in southeastern Utah. The agency also released preliminary alternatives for the San Rafael Master Leasing Plan, which is evaluating how to achieve better balance in an area adjacent to Canyonlands with valuable cultural resources.
“The Moab Master Leasing Plan gives BLM the right tools to guide future oil, gas and potash development in the heart of Utah’s red rock country,” said Stephen Bloch, Legal Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The MLP gives industry certainty where leasing and ultimately development can take place and also makes plain the terms and conditions for those activities. Likewise, the public as well as local communities and businesses now know that many of southeastern Utah’s stunningly beautiful canyons and mesas won’t be marred by the sight and sound of drill rigs and pump jacks. We appreciate BLM’s hard work to engage all stakeholders is this historic effort.”
Increased energy development in eastern Utah has fueled air pollution that threatens human health and the area’s internationally acclaimed dark night skies. It also affects recreation opportunities that contribute tens of millions of dollars to the state’s economy each year. The dramatic effects of climate change are becoming increasingly evident in southeast Utah’s already arid Colorado Plateau region. With more than 90% of BLM lands and minerals available nationally for leasing it has been incumbent on BLM to find better ways to safeguard wild places and other values of public lands—master leasing plans can help fit that need.
“Some of our most treasured places remain at risk from drilling and speculative leasing.” said Nada Culver, senior director for agency policy at The Wilderness Society. “Master leasing plans, like the Moab MLP, are a rational way to manage oil and gas on our public lands – with a vision of where energy development can be managed and where other values, like wilderness and recreation, need to be protected. By finalizing the Moab MLP and moving forward with the San Rafael Desert MLP, as well as others in Colorado and Wyoming, BLM is modernizing the way we do business on our public lands by taking a thoughtful and smart approach from the beginning.”
“Our public lands are home to our country’s last wild places, provide important wildlife habitat and drive local economies. The oil and gas industry does not belong there. This plan takes important steps to better protect vulnerable wilderness areas from wanton industrial exploration,” said Sharon Buccino, Director of the Land and Wildlife program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “
The Moab MLP takes the following specific steps:
- Protects wild places that are under threat from oil and gas leasing and development, including Fisher Towers, Porcupine Rim, Six-Shooter Peaks and Goldbar Canyon. These landscapes would either be closed to future leasing or subject to “no surface occupancy” stipulations that prohibit physical development on the lease.
- Provide strong protections for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks’ classic southern Utah vistas, dark night skies and clean water.
- Makes most future leases in the MLP area subject to common sense ‘controlled surface use’ stipulations. These are essential to give both industry and the public certainty about the ground rules for future development.
The plan does not:
- Prohibit all oil and gas leasing and development in the planning area. Instead, it makes sure leasing and development are more thoughtful and deliberate manner that reflect the outstanding public lands in southern Utah.
- Prohibit all potash leasing and development in the planning area. Rather, the Plan establishes three ‘potash leasing areas’ where these activities are concentrated.
Next up – San Rafael Desert Master Leasing Plan
Today BLM also moved forward with its next Master Leasing Plan effort, in Utah’s San Rafael Desert, and released a series of preliminary alternative courses of action for public review and comment. BLM previously shared these preliminary alternatives with local stakeholders, including Emery County and the National Park Service. The San Rafael Desert Master Leasing Plan covers a landscape that is rich with cultural resources and abuts the Horseshoe Canyon extension of Canyonlands National Park. It is located immediately west of the Moab Master Leasing Plan. BLM also continues its work on other MLPs in Western Colorado and Southwestern Wyoming.