The Bureau of Land Management is considering offering oil and gas leases within 5 miles of Dinosaur National Monument, but drilling has no place at the doorstep of this Southwestern park and its world-class fossils.
Spanning the border of northern Utah and Colorado, Dinosaur National Monument is a geologic marvel filled with dinosaur fossils, roaring rivers and deep, colorful canyons. But the monument now stands at risk of having oil and gas drilling right at its doorstep.
On June 22, 2017, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a draft environmental analysis for proposed oil and gas leases in northeastern Utah that would be offered at their December 2017 competitive lease sale. The BLM’s current analysis concluded that there would be no significant impact from leasing the proposed parcels, which includes five leases and license to drill nearly 130 wells within a 5-mile range along the western boundary of Dinosaur National Monument in Utah.
One of the parcels shares the monument’s southern boundary, and others are within the direct view of the Quarry Entrance Road (Utah Highway 149), the visitor center and the Carnegie Fossil Quarry. Dinosaur National Monument, iconic for its world-class paleontological resources, is also home to diverse communities of plants and animals and is the central hub of five major biophysical regions.
If developed, oil and gas activities could disrupt this critical ecological balance in northeast Utah and could mar the area’s scenic views, dilute the intensely dark night skies, pollute the region’s water, and deeply threaten the world-class resources visitors come to experience and explore each year. Adding pumpjacks and drill rigs, heavy duty truck traffic, flaring of natural gas, the threat of air and water pollution, and oil and gas infrastructure to this area would mar the monument and its rural heritage.
It is clear there are real risks in allowing oil and gas development at the doorstep of Dinosaur National Monument, and the National Park Service has raised concerns about potential harm to park air quality, natural soundscapes, and threatened and endangered species. The BLM has no clear need to offer oil and gas leases in this area. In 2013, the BLM deferred the sale of three parcels near the monument in a similar proposal, citing many of the same reasons NPCA and park advocates are noting in this sale.
For many years, NPCA has advocated a “smart from the start” approach to oil and gas leasing near our national parks, which means plan first and then lease where appropriate. We have encouraged the BLM to work collaboratively with the National Park Service, diverse stakeholders and all who care about our public lands to determine where oil and gas leasing is appropriate.
Given that this proposal will permit oil and gas drilling on thousands of acres of historically rural land near the park and the Green River and could harm the area’s water quality, wildlife, air quality and cultural resources, the BLM should defer the five leases and work with the National Park Service and diverse stakeholders to ensure the adequate resource protection this world-renowned landscape deserves.
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