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PNS Daily News - September 20, 2017 


We're covering stories from around the globe including: Republican House leaders say they're ready to pass a new health care bill; Hurricane Maria targets Puerto Rico; and a new list highlights areas that are 'Too Wild to Drill.'

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Groups to Oppose BLM Leases Near Dinosaur Nat'l. Monument

Oil and gas production on one parcel of public land opened by the BLM for drilling would be visible from the visitor center at Dinosaur National Monument. (National Park Service)
Oil and gas production on one parcel of public land opened by the BLM for drilling would be visible from the visitor center at Dinosaur National Monument. (National Park Service)
September 6, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY - Conservation groups say they'll challenge the Bureau of Land Management's plan to offer 75 leases for oil and gas development on some 100,000 acres of publicly owned land near Dinosaur National Monument and in the San Rafael Swell.

Nada Culver, senior director for agency policy for The Wilderness Society, said the decision continues what her group sees as a disturbing trend of turning over public lands to the fossil-fuel industry without considering the effects on landscapes she called "irreplaceable."

"Everyone - from the National Park Service, local residents, the governor of Utah, conservation groups like The Wilderness Society - all raised concerns that many of these lands are not appropriate for leasing," she said.

Opening these areas to air and water pollution also threatens the local outdoor recreation economy, Culver said.

The BLM move makes good on the Trump administration's promises to remove restrictions believed to slow energy production and cost jobs. However, Culver said, oil and gas companies are only producing on 40 percent of nearly 3 million acres of public lands in Utah already under lease.

Landon Newell, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said oil wells on one parcel that could be opened for drilling would be visible from the Dinosaur Quarry visitor center. He said he believes the BLM's decision to open up the San Rafael Swell in central Utah dismisses the region's unique values, "which is an area of rich cultural density, and archeological and cultural value.

"There's a lot of rock art, there's structures, there's evidence of thousands of years of habitation in this area," he said, "and that has all been put at risk."

Newell said his group and others will file an administrative protest with the BLM's Utah director before the agency's competitive oil and gas lease sale. The sale currently is scheduled for the week of Dec. 11.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - UT