Groups Challenge BLM Over Dinosaur Nat'l. Monument Leases
PHOTO: Dinosaur National Monument is full of ancient pictographs. It is also home to more than 400 fish and wildlife species. Courtesy Nat'l. Park Service.
December 20, 2012
JENSEN, Utah - It's a skirmish they say they're getting tired of having. Conservation groups filed letters of protest this week asking the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to remove - or at least reconsider offering - some of the land the agency plans to make available for new oil and gas lease sales. It's near the entrance to Dinosaur National Monument, which spans the Colorado-Utah border.
Soren Jespersen, wildlands coordinator for The Wilderness Society, says drilling activity would compromise not only visitors' experience at the monument, but wildlife and recreation uses.
"Most folks have a general idea [of] those areas that aren't okay [to drill,] and the entrance roads to national monuments - such as Dinosaur National Monument - are probably not appropriate for oil and gas development. Unfortunately, the BLM continues to offer these areas and makes the public protest them."
The protests were filed by four groups, including the National Parks Conservation Association and The Wilderness Society. They're asking that the land parcels be removed from the next oil and gas lease sale, which is set for February.
Jespersen says the BLM decision to lease the land to energy developers conflicts with the views of its sister agency, the National Park Service, about protecting it. He adds that the BLM's last official analysis of these 10,000 acres was many years ago. The lease protesters believe it should be updated before making such big decisions, he explains.
"Some things on the ground may have changed. Some roads may have been reclaimed; wildlife moves around - things change after three decades. In 1979, they may have thought it didn't have wilderness character - but today, it does."
Almost 200,000 people visit Dinosaur National Monument every year, and this year, 9,000 of them were whitewater rafters floating the Yampa River. The National Park Service says the tourist trade in the area has been worth more than $6.5 million to the economies of northwestern Colorado and northeastern Utah.