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200,000 Acres of Utah Land Open for Leasing Amid Protests

Some Bureau of Land Management tracts being leased are near Canyonlands National Park. (tsaiproject/Flickr)
Some Bureau of Land Management tracts being leased are near Canyonlands National Park. (tsaiproject/Flickr)
September 11, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY — The Bureau of Land Management today is opening up more than 200,000 acres of public land in Utah to lease sales for oil and gas development. And many who oppose the move are speaking out.

The Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance are among groups planning to protest today outside the BLM's Salt Lake City Offices. The BLM held a 15-day public comment period on the oil and gas leases earlier this year.

But Ryan Beam, public lands campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity, said he feels the agency hasn't fully considered the consequences of opening up public lands to fracking and drilling.

"Some of these leases in particular are very close to protected areas such as Canyonlands National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area,” Beam said. “But then there's also climate concerns, public health concerns, concerns about wildlife, concerns about water. It's a long list."

The BLM held similar lease sales in March and June, and is planning lease sales for more than 300,000 acres of Utah land in December. The lease sales come amid a Trump administration push for "energy dominance" nationwide.

The leases being made available today include land in Emery, Rich, Wayne and Utah counties. But Beam said he’s skeptical oil and gas leases will bring much economic benefit to those areas.

"I think we've seen in the past that it benefits corporations more than it does communities and that the costs we know far outweigh any of the benefits,” he said.

Beam said groups will continue to protest as more land is opened up to fossil fuel development in Utah.

More information on Bureau of Land Management lease sales is available at BLM.gov.

Katherine Davis-Young, Public News Service - UT