For Immediate Release: September 24, 2004
Scenic Public Lands Proposed for Wilderness Protection to Be Offered to Oil Companies for Development
Moab, UT The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will hold its largest oil and gas lease sale in recent history on September 8, when it auctions off over 350,000 acres of public lands in Utah to the oil and gas industry. This sale will put up for grabs nearly 40,000 acres of wilderness quality lands most of which the agency, itself, agrees qualifies as wilderness. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society, The Grand Canyon Trust, the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, and Living Rivers, along with Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) have filed a protest with the BLM requesting that the agency defer leasing of the parcels that are proposed for wilderness in legislation in Congress.
“The Bush Administration is once again exploiting wilderness quality public lands for private gain,” said Hinchey, who is the lead sponsor of America’s Redrock Wilderness Act. “The BLM should not be sacrificing the nation’s natural heritage for short-term profit when it has acknowledged that some of these lands have wilderness characteristics.” Indeed, 83 members of Congress have recently requested BLM to not offer leases to the oil and gas industry in areas that are proposed for wilderness in Utah.
“The Interior Department is aggressively targeting some of America’s most spectacular but unprotected lands for oil and gas leasing and development,” said Liz Thomas of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. She added, "The public would lose some of its most cherished speical places, all for what would amount to just a drop in the overall oil and gas bucket."
According to United States Geological Survey (USGS) data, the amount of undiscovered oil and gas under Utah’s proposed wilderness would serve the country for 4 days and less than 4 weeks respectively.
Areas in the upcoming sale include places that BLM admits have wilderness character. They include Upper Desolation Canyon along the Green River, Bull Canyon in the Dinosaur area, and Coal and Floy canyons along the southern flanks of the Book Cliffs in eastern Utah.
The Desolation Canyon area of the Green River is a favorite of river runners, due to its remote and rugged surroundings. "The oil industry has alternatives like using their profits to develop alternative energy for the global market," says John Weisheit, co-founder of Colorado Plateau River Guides. "But we river guides do not have an industry alternative. We must stop this senseless crusade to forsake our river canyons for what amounts to a week's worth on energy on the global market."
Laments Dirk Vaughan, co-owner and operator of Tex’s Riverways in Moab, “It seems like no place in Utah is off limits. There is no balance in the Bush Administration’s approach to oil and gas leasing and development.”
“Utah’s wild country is the last place we should sacrifice to oil companies,” explained Johanna Wald of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “These beloved places define the West, and by extension, the American culture of freedom and independence. We shouldn’t give them away to fulfill the “get rich quick” dreams of corporate speculators."