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BLM Suspends 2004-2006 Oil and Gas Leases
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has agreed to suspend 58 leases sold between 2004 and 2006 pending another round of environmental analysis. The leases were in such places as Cross Canyon in far southeastern Utah, Bitter Creek in the Book Cliffs, and Sweetwater Reef in the San Rafael Desert.
The leases are the sad residue of the Bush administration—you remember: the folks who made oil and gas leasing and development the “Number One” priority for the Utah BLM? While we’ve said goodbye to George, Dick, and Gale, their legacy lingers. (Makes you wish you’d paid more attention when your physics professor explained “half-life.”)
The BLM sold leases between February 2004 and May 2006 in some of the state’s most spectacular, wilderness quality lands. Those were the years just after former Interior Secretary Gale Norton and former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt struck their infamous “no more wilderness” settlement, a time when the Utah BLM was selling oil and gas leases in wilderness quality areas at a breakneck pace. And it was before SUWA won a landmark lawsuit in August 2006 putting the brakes on this illegal practice.
SUWA and our partners at the Natural Resources Defense Council and The Wilderness Society challenged the BLM’s 2004-2006 leasing decisions immediately. After several years of on-again-off-again appeals and litigation the BLM agreed to suspend the leases.
Relax: the BLM is not doing this out of the goodness of its heart. Despite the BLM’s argument that the case should be dismissed on technical grounds, a federal district court judge ruled in December that our lawsuit challenging these lease sales could go forward. Shortly thereafter, the BLM agreed to the suspensions. A courtroom epiphany, you might say.