Christmas Energy Lease Fire Sale to Spare Land Near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

Arches National Park, Utah

Public land near Arches National Park, Dinosaur Monument, and Canyonlands N.P. may get spared from a “midnight fire sale” on Friday for energy leases in Utah.


National Park Service officials have protested over some of the lease sales near the parks and monuments, resulting in deferrals for all or part of 23 parcels (37,731 acres) near national parks.

I can’t help but think that the deferral is just throwing a bone to the environmentalists to keep them quiet…

The energy lease sale in Utah puts 300,000 acres of public lands up for grabs to oil, gas, and geothermal development, including some of the West’s most environmentally sensitive areas. On the block are 132 oil and gas parcels (163,935 acres) and 44 geothermal parcels (142,333 acres) in Uintah, Carbon, Duchesne, Grand, Emery, Garfield, and San Juan counties, some of the wildest and most remote places in Utah.

Why are the leases being sold off to energy companies? Because big money talks, not because of dire need:

“There is certainly no shortage of public lands in Utah already under lease but not in production. As of the end of fiscal year 2006, there were over 4.6 million acres of BLM managed land under lease but less than 1 million acres in production.” – SUWA

Some of the reasons given by the BLM for the lease sale deferrals are the need for further impact studies, conflicts with existing coal mining operations, issues with wildlife, and split mineral rights, where one party (the BLM) owns the below-the-surface mineral rights and a different party owns the surface.

Why not defer all of the leases? We’ve given the energy industry enough gifts this Christmas.

Send a message to the White House: Ask President-Elect Obama to Reverse Bush Administration Damage

Let’s hope that the environmental coalition protesting the sale can make a difference in whether these public lands, our public lands, are sold as “resources” or kept wild.

Image: Gleb_TO at FLickr under Creative Commons

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