The federal Bureau of Land Management intends to lease nearly one hundred forty thousand acres in and around the San Rafael Swell in eastern Utah for oil and gas drilling. Many conservationist groups are angry about the lease auction, which is set to take place in November.
The BLM itself has deemed much of the land to have wilderness and recreational value, but BLM Spokesperson Megan Crandall says that they decide whether to manage lands for wilderness uses or for other uses, like development.
“Based on those decisions, we have lands that remain open to oil and gas leasing, even though they might have been identified to have some wilderness characteristics,” said Crandall.
Ashley Sanders with Peaceful Uprising says the Bureau of Land Management’s job is to manage land for its best and most proper uses.
“And to lease if off to a hungry fossil fuel industry that is going to destroy those lands and destroy our possibility for clean air, clean water, and a livable future, is precisely the opposite of managing those lands for their best uses,” said Sanders.
Under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, the BLM is required to hold oil and gas lease sales at least once every quarter. Crandall acknowledges that four of the proposed leases intersect with the protected Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry.
“It would appear that there may be a discrepancy in our acreage based on the acreage that some of the folks who made comments gave us, and so that means we need to do some more homework and we’re going to go in and do that and make sure that anything we offer for oil and gas leasing is appropriate,” said Crandall.
Crandall says lands are nominated for lease auctions. The BLM inspects nominated lands and removes any wilderness study areas and lands managed by agencies other than the BLM. Crandall says in this case, they also removed lands inhabited by sage grouse. The public has until September sixteenth to protest the land parcel leasing