Once again, your voice in defense of Utah’s wild places is urgently needed.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is proposing to lease 79 parcels for oil and gas 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, in the heart of the Desolation Canyon region, the Book Cliffs, and immediately adjacent to Dinosaur National Monument.
Leasing in the San Rafael Swell
For the third time in five years, the 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 agency’s initial decision to offer these leases in 2013 drew immediate and widespread criticism, including a large public protest in front of the BLM’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 that it has surveyed at most only 2.9 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.
Leasing near Dinosaur National Monument and in the Desolation Canyon and Book Cliffs regions
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 in areas proposed for wilderness designation in the Desolation Canyon and Book Cliffs regions as well as immediately adjacent to Dinosaur National Monument.
This ill-advised proposal would, among other things, green-light oil and gas development right next to the monument, including along the primary access route travelled by thousands of visitors annually. One of the parcels was previously offered at the BLM’s infamous December 2008 oil and gas lease sale and later withdrawn from sale by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar after a successful lawsuit by SUWA and others blocked its issuance.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 adverse impacts to air quality, viewsheds, dark night skies, water quality, and natural soundscapes. Oil and gas development on the parcels near the monument would be visible from the Quarry Visitor Center as well as from numerous vantage points within the monument.