Dodging Development: Conservation Group Reaches an Agreement Over Leased Land

White Rim OverlookSalt Lake City, UT – The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) announced that on May 28, 2009 an agreement was made with Equity Oil Company (“Equity”) concerning oil and gas leases on lands in Utah’s San Juan County.

The agreement “gives SUWA certainty that oil and gas development in an important part of the Hatch Point proposed wilderness area will be subject to the applicable Resource Management Plan and additional restrictions,” said Stephen Bloch, Conservation Director and Attorney for SUWA.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved a petition from Equity to reinstate three oil and gas leases in the citizen-proposed Hatch Point wilderness area in January 2009. SUWA challenged the BLM decision by appealing to the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA), one of the primary forums of independent and objective administrative review of BLM decisions.

These and many other parcels were part of a last minute Bush-administration oil and gas lease sale held on December 19, 2008. The sale was disrupted by Tim DeCristopher, a college student at the University of Utah, who bid on and won many parcels of auctioned land. Because of this disruption, the parcels were withdrawn for further evaluation by the Department of the Interior.

However, both SUWA and Equity agreed that IBLA should defer its ruling and give both parties an opportunity to come to an agreement. After some negotiation, the two parties reached an agreement on May 22.

Morgan Wyenn, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said that “[SUWA] appreciate[s] that Equity was willing to sit down…and negotiate an agreement that protects an important public landscape.”

Two of the three leases were located near overlooks into Canyonlands National Park. The agreement protects those lands from development.

Photo Credit: vtveen via flickr under Creative Commons License

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