San Rafael Swell Under Attack Once Again

Sep 14th, 2015 Written by Landon Newell

The San Rafael Swell is once again under attack from oil and gas leasing – and again sensitive and irreplaceable cultural, archaeological, paleontological, and wilderness values are at risk.

More than 35,000 acres – all of them identified by BLM as possessing wilderness value – have been placed on the auction block in BLM’s upcoming November 2015 oil and gas lease sale, including the Limestone Cliffs, Molen Reef, Mussentuchit (pronounced “musn’t-touch-it”) Badlands, Rock Canyon, and Upper Muddy Creek areas.

Molen Reef (RayBloxham)
Molen Reef proposed wilderness. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

These lands, which hug the west side of the San Rafael Swell, feature a kaleidoscope of colorful sandstone layers and exhibit nearly every type of geological strata found in the redrock country.

Mussentuchit Badlands (Ray Bloxham)
Mussentuchit Badlands proposed wilderness. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

Oil and gas development in this region of the Swell is entirely speculative and unnecessary due to its remote location and the large amount of BLM-managed land in Utah already under lease (much of which is not being developed). These leases open the door for industry to step in and permanently scar the Swell, destroying its remarkable values. They also complicate good-faith negotiations currently underway as part of Rep. Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative regarding these exact same lands.

SUWA will be submitting a formal challenge to the inclusion of these lease parcels in the November sale. Stay tuned!