Press Release: Proposed Oil and Gas Leases Threaten the San Rafael Swell and Dinosaur National Monument

* SOUTHERN UTAH WILDERNESS ALLIANCE *

For Immediate Release: June 22, 2017

Contact:
Landon Newell, Staff Attorney
Tel: 801-428-3991

 Acting in lockstep with the Trump administration’s relentless onslaught against federal public lands, the BLM is proposing to offer at the agency’s December 2017 oil and gas lease sale 79 parcels for leasing and development on approximately 100,000 acres of federal public lands in eastern and central Utah.  Included in this list are parcels along the western edge of the San Rafael Swell and immediately adjacent to Dinosaur National Monument.

“This is an outrageous proposal to lease and develop some of Utah’s most culturally rich and wildly scenic federal public lands.  BLM has quickly come full circle and brought us back to the ‘drill now-drill everywhere’ days of the early 2000s, and once again Utah is front and center on the national stage for these disastrous policies,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

BLM Vernal field office leasing documents here; BLM Price field office leasing documents here.

Leasing in the San Rafael Swell
For the third time in five years, BLM is proposing to offer leases in the Molen Reef region of the western San Rafael Swell – an area with high cultural and archaeological density and outstanding recreational opportunities.  The BLM’s initial decision to offer these leases in 2013 drew immediate and widespread criticism, including a large public protest in front of the agency’s state headquarters in Salt Lake City. Ultimately, the agency determined that it did not have enough information regarding cultural and archaeological resources to justify leasing the area for oil and gas development.  In 2015, the BLM once again deferred leasing in the Molen Reef region, citing the continuing need to gather more cultural and archaeological resource information.

To date, the agency has still not completed those cultural resource inventories.  In fact, the BLM admits it has surveyed only 0.6 percent of the proposed parcels and thus is in no stronger a position to justify leasing now than it was in 2013.  The agency’s leasing flip-flop is a disservice to this remarkable wilderness-caliber landscape and its thousands of known – and yet to be discovered – cultural resources.

View of lease area in the western San Rafael Swell (Eagle Canyon/Molen Reef region). Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

Leasing on the Doorstep of Dinosaur National Monument
In a return to the Bush administration’s scorched earth approach to oil and gas leasing in the Uinta Basin, the BLM is also proposing to offer leases immediately adjacent to Dinosaur National Monument.  This ill-advised proposal would green-light oil and gas development right next to the monument, including along the primary access route travelled by thousands of visitors annually.  In fact, one of the parcels proposed for sale was previously offered at BLM’s infamous December 2008 oil and gas lease sale and later withdrawn from sale by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar after a successful lawsuit by SUWA and others blocked its issuance.

In a letter to the BLM, the National Park Service has objected to the leasing proposal, citing the adverse impacts to air quality, viewsheds, dark night skies, water quality, and natural soundscapes.

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