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BLM Releases Master Leasing Plan for Southern Utah

A mountain biker maneuvers on a wilderness trail near Moab, Utah. (Shaine M. Smith)
A mountain biker maneuvers on a wilderness trail near Moab, Utah. (Shaine M. Smith)
July 22, 2016

MOAB, Utah - Conservation groups, business owners and other stakeholders are praising the completion of a federal land management plan for southern Utah. The Moab Master Leasing Plan, released this week by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is the result of a four-year process to balance the development of energy and potash deposits with protecting the natural beauty of southern Utah's public lands.

Ashley Korenblat, director of the non-profit Public Land Solutions in Moab, said the agreement spells out in advance how oil production will coexist with recreation interests.

"What this planning process and these stipulations do, they make it so when a drill rig comes back to Grand County, if it does, if the price of oil goes back up, we know exactly where the well pad should be and how it should be managed," she said.

Korenblat said the agreement will avoid instances where an oil producer might seek to place a well on a trail head, spurring protests and expensive litigation. The agreement would close some parts of the region to mineral leasing, limit surface occupancy for energy development in other areas and reduce well site density. Some state officials have expressed concerns the plan could cost the region millions in revenues and hundreds of jobs.

Conservation groups and the Interior Department are calling the agreement a model for future energy development on public lands. Korenblat, who's Moab-based company, Western Spirit Cycling, provides guided mountain bike tours of wilderness trails, said the plan will help outdoor businesses like hers grow.

"They're attracting not only visitors but businesses and what we call quality-of-life recruits, people who want to live in a small town that has access to public land so that they can do all the fun things they like to do, and recruit employees for their businesses," she added.

The proposal is the latest of several BLM leasing plans, mostly in western states, released since 2010 when the agency began reforming its oil and gas leasing practices on federal lands.

The full plan can be read online here.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - UT