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.
The Secretary of the Interior is trying to persuade Republicans in Congress not to eliminate funding for a land conservation program by linking it to another they typically support.
Secretary Sally Jewell held a conference call with reporters to point out the economic activity linked to tourism, energy production and other activities on public land. She put it at more than 13-billion dollars, well above the total budget of 11-point-9 billion for the whole department.