Last year the BLM proposed to sell 57 oil and gas leases primarily located in Utah’s stunning San Rafael Swell. The leases would have green-lighted development on more than 80,000 acres of proposed wilderness, the vast majority of which the BLM itself acknowledges are wilderness-caliber landscapes. The leases would have also authorized surface activities in a culturally rich area and over the objections of The Hopi Tribe.
Hundreds of people wrote and emailed the BLM asking them to “think first and lease later.” More than 150 of you rallied at the BLM’s state headquarters in Salt Lake City and delivered this message personally. Thanks to your hard work that bad idea was tabled in the days leading up to the proposed sale and the leases were withdrawn from the sale.
But last week, an oil and gas trade group filed an appeal with the Interior Department seeking to overturn the BLM’s decision not to offer these leases. They were joined by a small oil and gas company that had hoped to buy some of these leases — so small, in fact, that they don’t operate a single well in Utah.
The gist of their appeal is that because the BLM initially made the (wrong) decision to offer these leases, it was required to do so no matter what kind of information the agency learned about the threats that development would pose to fragile cultural sites, threatened species, etc.
In other words, industry wants the good old days back of “lease first and think later.” Not a chance. SUWA and other conservation groups intend to intervene on behalf of the BLM and defend this important decision.