Move will protect national park resources from impacts of energy production.
SALT LAKE CITY – In a move that will help protect one of the Southwest’s most iconic landscapes, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced it will remove parcels of land on the doorstep of Zion National Park from its September oil and gas lease sale.
The BLM made the decision after considering more than 40,000 public comments and hearing from local business leaders and residents. Formal resolutions were passed in Washington County and the gateway towns of Springdale and Toquerville, supporting removal of the parcels of land next to Zion from the lease sale. More than 10,000 members and supporters of National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) wrote to the BLM urging the agency to protect the park from nearby energy development.
Below is a statement by David Nimkin, NPCA Senior Southwest Regional Director:
“Today’s announcement by the BLM to remove the upcoming oil and gas leases near Zion National Park is absolutely the right decision and great news for one of our country’s most beloved national parks and its surrounding communities.
“Pumpjacks and drill rigs, heavy-duty truck traffic, flaring of natural gas, the threat of air and water pollution and other infrastructure from industrial oil and gas activities have no place next to Zion National Park. Millions of visitors come to Zion every year, making it a major driver of southwestern Utah’s robust recreation and tourism economy. Industrial activities would degrade the stunning views, natural quiet, and dark night skies that draw visitors to the park.
“Fortunately for Zion, BLM listened to the National Park Service, nearby communities and voices from around the country. These important allies expressed strong concerns about oil and gas development so close to the park and gateway communities that rely on Zion’s overall health for their local economies. Today’s decision is a win for those communities and park visitors, but more work to protect the park is needed.
“The BLM St. George Field Office’s outdated Resource Management Plan must be amended to fully remove the threat of future drilling next to Zion National Park boundaries. Until this occurs, today’s decision is only temporary security for the park, and citizens’ voices will continue to be critical to its protection.”
Background: On January 10th, BLM released a draft environmental analysis of proposed oil and gas leases in southwestern Utah to offer at a September 2017 sale. The BLM’s analysis concluded there would be no significant impact from leasing the proposed parcels.
However, three of the parcels, comprising 4,730 acres, are located in close proximity to Zion National Park near the local gateway communities of Toquerville and Virgin, Utah. Two of the three parcels are two miles from the southwest border of the park and cross over Kolob Terrace Road, one of the park’s main entrance roads. Zion’s rural gateway communities welcomed more than 4.3 million visitors in 2016 - an increase of 2.7 million in just the six last years.
There are currently no producing wells in the region, and BLM is under no requirement to offer the parcels for lease. Moreover, the oil and gas industry has leased, but not developed roughly 2 million acres of BLM-managed lands in Utah.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.2 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historic, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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