From the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance;
"BLM to Hold Christmas Oil and Gas Lease Fire Sale
We knew that the Bush administration and its minions in Utah would do everything in their power before leaving office to compromise our state and its remarkable wilderness landscapes. We were right. The BLM recently issued “records of decision” marking final approval for all six resource management plans (RMPs) just in time for the Bush administration to scurry out of office. It has been hard to read or listen to the nonsense that has come from Utah state director Selma Sierra—herself a close friend of former Interior Secretary Gale Norton—about the burning “need” to get these plans finished “on schedule.”
As lobbyist Bob Weidner told a collection of county and state officials in 2006—with BLM officials and industry representatives looking on approvingly—that’s doublespeak for “striking while the iron is hot” to “fix” these RMPs, “an opportunity that may never come again.” The BLM met industry expectations, leaving us with a sorry collection of illegal plans that throw the door wide open for rampant off-road vehicle damage and energy leasing and development.
Here’s one of the first waves to break: the Utah BLM recently announced that it is delaying previously scheduled quarterly oil and gas lease sales from November 18 to December 19. Why the delay? Because the BLM can only sell these leases after it has approved the above-mentioned RMPs with pro forma records of decision. No records of decision, no lease sales. BLM officials have openly admitted to us that they switched the date to allow them to begin selling leases in some of the state’s most wild and remote public lands—lands that had
been blocked from leasing by a landmark SUWA legal victory in 2006 and several administrative appeals board decisions that followed.
Why would the BLM do such a thing? Quite simply because industry asked (read: told) the agency to do so. There is certainly no shortage of public lands in Utah already under lease but not in production. As of the end of fiscal year 2006, there were over 4.6 million acres of BLM managed land under lease but less than 1 million acres in production.
Bottom line, industry wants to get leases while the getting is good. While that may make sense for a private company’s bottom line, it’s no way to manage Utah’s redrock country.
With your support, we will fight this lease sale, as we have so many other deplorable actions that the BLM has undertaken these past eight years.
to send letter of protest, please visit; http://www.suwa.org/site/PageServer?pagename=December2008_LeaseSaleArticle
background info from SUWA;
For Immediate Release: December 17, 2008
Stephen Bloch, SUWA, (801) 428-3981
"SUWA and Others File Suit to Stop Controversial Sale of Oil and Gas Leases in Proposed Wilderness Near National Parks
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and a broad coalition of conservation and preservation groups filed suit in federal district court today to stop the BLM from auctioning off wilderness-quality lands for oil and gas development. The lease sale, which is scheduled for December 19, follows BLM’s equally controversial issuance of six management plans for public lands across eastern and southern Utah, which opened up vast swaths of red rock country to oil and gas drilling and off-road vehicles.
The contested lease sale would lead to the industrialization of some of Utah's most spectacular wilderness-quality landscapes, including Desolation and Nine Mile Canyons, and would degrade air quality at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and Dinosaur National Monument.
“BLM cut corners on this lease sale, which will do nothing to lower the price that Americans pay at the pump or to heat their homes,” said Stephen Bloch, Conservation Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “What it will do, however, is leave a legacy of ruin in some of Utah’s most iconic landscapes.”
The complaint (Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance v. Allred) argues that the BLM, in its haste to complete the lease sale before the new administration takes office, disregarded impacts to air quality, failed to protect archaeological sites, ignored the impacts of climate change on public lands, and failed to consider how oil and gas drilling exacerbates the effects of climate change. Joining SUWA as plaintiffs in the case are the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the Grand Canyon Trust, the National Parks Conservation Association, The Wilderness Society, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from SUWA, Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council."