Press Release Jan 5, 2018

National Parks Group Challenges Western Federal Oil and Gas Lease Sales

Oil, gas development could endanger six national park units in Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming.

SALT LAKE CITY – Defending America’s national parks from the Trump Administration’s drive to expand energy development on public lands, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) is protesting upcoming lease sales near national parks in New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. NPCA has filed protests to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) concerning three oil and gas lease sales, all scheduled for March 2018. Sale and development of these parcels could harm natural, historic and cultural resources of Ft Laramie National Historic Site in Wyoming, Arches and Canyonlands national parks and Hovenweep and Natural Bridges national monuments in Utah, and Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico.

NPCA is challenging the adequacy of environmental review for the lease sales, claiming that impacts to the nearby national parks were not properly studied. Environmental reviews for lease sales were rushed through as part of the Trump administration’s push to expand leasing. At least 13 western national parks are impacted by recently completed or in-progress lease sales.

In Wyoming, NPCA and the Powder River Basin Resource Council are protesting six parcels of a BLM High Plains District lease sale close to Fort Laramie National Historic Site. Located along the famed Oregon Trail, Fort Laramie has a rich history dating back nearly 200 years as a haven for emigrants traversing the sweeping unpopulated western landscape in the 1800s, first as fur trading post, later as a military base. It is also the site of two historic treaties with Plains tribes.

“Development of these six parcels–with the closest just a quarter-mile away from the park boundary–would irrevocably harm this important piece of American history,” said Holly Sandbo, Northern Rockies Senior Program Coordinator for NPCA. “A visitor cannot grasp the essence of this vast, isolated landscape that surrounds the site if the views are obstructed by and filled with the sounds of drilling equipment.”

Along with Archaeology Southwest, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, and The Wilderness Society, NPCA is challenging four parcels of a lease sale by the BLM in New Mexico close to Chaco Canyon National Historic Site. Chaco is the sacred ancestral home of Pueblo peoples and a place of current religious activities for Pueblo tribes and the Navajo Nation. Tribal leaders have urged the BLM to “immediately institute a moratorium on all oil and gas related permitting and leasing” in the Greater Chaco Landscape. The groups are calling for a moratorium until further consultation with the tribes and research regarding traditional cultural sites, as well as the Mancos-Gallup Resource Management Plan for these lands, can all be completed.

“The four parcels in question would harm the integrity of Chaco National Historical Park and connected sites if opened for oil and gas development,” said Ernie Atencio, New Mexico Program Manager for NPCA. “This area is filled with archaeological resources, sacred ancestral sites and a cultural history that is unique in the world.”

In Utah, NPCA is protesting 12 parcels of the Canyon Country lease sale near Hovenweep National Monument, where development could affect night skies, the natural soundscape, clean air and cultural resources. Such development impacts Hovenweep National Monument, Canyonlands and Arches national parks, and Natural Bridges National Monument. Numerous parcels in the area with overlapping boundaries were ultimately deferred in a 2015 BLM lease sale because of the concerns about effects of development on cultural resources at Hovenweep.

“Energy exploration and production, especially in areas that share a landscape with national parks, requires a collaborative planning process that provides for genuine public participation and achieves a real balance,” said David Nimkin, Senior Southwest Regional Director for NPCA. “The reckless approach to leasing currently taking place on our public lands will only lead to further conflict and endanger those special places that belong to all of us.”

The BLM has the opportunity to remove or defer parcels from these lease sales, or can dismiss or deny the protests. The BLM is not required to resolve protests before the lease sale date. NPCA continues to advocate for collaborative, stakeholder-driven planning processes to achieve a balance of development, recreation, protection of sacred cultural values and conservation in national park landscapes.

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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 1.3 million supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.