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The DOJ delivers the Comey memos to congress. Also on our rundown: more evidence that the rent is too, damn, high; Marathon County braces for sulfide mining; and the focus on recycling this weekend for Earth Day in North Dakota.

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Analysis: 92 Percent of Public Land Use Is Far Cry from "Balanced"

PHOTO: A new analysis from The Wilderness Society of BLM management plans throughout the west demonstrates oil and gas exploration is favored far beyond any other uses by a wide margin. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey.
PHOTO: A new analysis from The Wilderness Society of BLM management plans throughout the west demonstrates oil and gas exploration is favored far beyond any other uses by a wide margin. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey.
October 21, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY - A new analysis from the Wilderness Society shows the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has made 92 percent of the public land it manages in Utah available for oil and gas drilling and exploration.

The overwhelming disparity of the 92 percent figure leaves only eight percent for "everything else," including conservation and recreation.

Nada Culver, director of the Wilderness Society's BLM Action Center, says the statistics in the Open for Business report demonstrate time and time again the oil and gas industry has an unfair advantage over public land use in Utah and the west. She contends those advantages don't reflect the public's view of what is an appropriate percentage of industry use of public land.

"We've seen a real evolution in how people think about the public lands," she says. "Not just something that's out there to be used for oil and gas, but something that's valued for recreation, wildlife, or for clean air and water."

BLM Resource Management Plans in western states were examined for the report, which found 90 percent of those lands have been identified for oil and gas development.

Culver says the BLM should better address the imbalances, identify areas for conservation and recreation, pre-screen which areas might be best for oil and gas use, and incorporate Master Leasing Plans. The agency is beginning to do so.

"We want to support the direction the agency is going, and can go, to really embrace the way the public feels," she says. "We're talking about the public's lands, and that we all have an opportunity to value them and use them."

Culver also notes that of the 36 million acres of BLM land under oil and gas leases throughout the western U.S., only about 12.5 million acres are in production.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - UT