Press Release: BLM Defers Two Proposed Oil and Gas Lease Parcels in Nine Mile Canyon; More Work Remains to be Done

Dec 9th, 2016 Written by Landon Newell


December 9, 2016

Dennis Willis, Nine Mile Canyon Coalition, 435.650.0850
Jerry Spangler, Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance, 801.392.2646
Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991

Salt Lake City:  Yesterday afternoon, December 8, BLM announced its decision to defer from leasing two highly contested oil and gas lease parcels in Nine Mile Canyon, citing unresolved issues regarding impacts to rock art and other cultural resources.

“We are relieved that BLM has deferred these parcels,” said Dennis Willis with the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition.  “We look forward to working with BLM to complete its long overdue commitments to protect the undeniably significant and culturally rich landscape in Nine Mile Canyon.”

The Nine Mile Canyon Coalition, along with other historic preservation and conservation groups, had protested the BLM’s decision to include these parcels (and others) in its upcoming oil and gas lease sale.


The BLM has yet to defer from leasing four proposed oil and gas lease parcels located in the Desolation Canyon region – a region BLM has identified as “one of the largest blocks of roadless BLM public lands within the continental United States” – and Argyle Canyon, a culturally rich tributary of Nine Mile Canyon (photographs available here).

“Both the Desolation Canyon region and Argyle Canyon contain remarkable and significant cultural resources,” said Jerry Spangler with the Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance (CPAA).  “As with the two Nine Mile Canyon parcels, BLM should not lease in the Argyle Canyon and the greater Desolation Canyon area until it resolves the remaining potential threats to this culturally rich landscape.”

Upper Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA
Petroglyphs in Argyle Canyon, a culturally rich tributary of Nine Mile Canyon. Copyright Jerry Spangler

Historic preservation and conservation groups including CPAA and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance protested BLM’s decision to offer oil and gas leases in the Desolation Canyon region, disputing BLM’s determination that leasing will have no adverse effect on archaeological or cultural resources.

“BLM has not met its legal obligation to protect important cultural resources,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “BLM’s ‘lease first, think later’ approach is unlawful and threatens Americans’ cultural heritage.”

Utah BLM’s sale is scheduled to be held in a first-of-its-kind online sale on December 13, 2016.  Currently, BLM is planning to offer 26 parcels for sale in the jurisdiction of the Vernal field office.


SUWA et al.’s November 29, 2016, press release regarding BLM’s upcoming lease sale is available here.