Press Release Jun 9, 2020

Amid Pandemic, Interior Moves Forward With Enormous Oil And Gas Drilling Plan Near National Parks

The 110,000+ acre proposal would include oil and gas drilling within a mile of Canyonlands National Park and the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument

Salt Lake City, UT – The Trump administration today released its proposal to open up more than 110,000 acres of public land to oil and gas drilling, most of which lies in southern Utah near Canyonlands, Arches and Capitol Reef national parks.

In total, the administration is opening up 114,050 acres of public land to oil and gas drilling. Leases are within 0.4 miles of Canyonlands National Park, 4 miles of Arches National Park, 3 miles of Capitol Reef National Park, and 0.7 miles of the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument.

“This is a huge expansion and a real threat to nearby national parks and monuments, as well as enormous amounts of the extraordinary red-rock landscape that Utah is famous for,” said Erika Pollard, associate director southwest for the National Park Conservation Association.

“The public have a right to have their say about oil and gas drilling plans, and especially those as reckless as these. Forcing this through in the middle of a pandemic while people are preoccupied with keeping their families and communities safe demonstrates a complete disregard for the public. The Bureau of Land Management urgently needs to reconsider this entire oil and gas drilling plan and at the very least should postpone the process until the public can participate properly.”

A map of the area is available here, and photographs of the area are available here

The scale of the lease sale is the largest seen in the area since the oil industry giveaways at the end of the George W. Bush administration in December 2008, which ironically also included 77 parcels.

The nature and scale of that Bush-era lease sale was so controversial that it prompted a lawsuit from conservation groups that blocked the sale and led to long overdue and common sense reforms to the oil and gas leasing process. The Trump administration overturned those reforms shortly after taking office, setting the stage for a repeat of the disastrous December 2008 lease sale.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is pressing ahead with its plans to proceed with the lease sale by beginning the public comment period, ignoring numerous calls for the agency to pause or extend comment periods until after the pandemic.

The BLM made the right decision last month to extend the comment period on a planning process for oil and gas leasing near Chaco Culture National Historical Park, where many communities are focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and keeping their members safe. The agency should also take community needs into consideration here and extend the comment period.

The U.S. Geologic Survey and other government and academic reports predict that southeastern Utah will warm more rapidly over the coming decades than nearly any other part of America. By proposing to sell these leases to oil and gas extraction the Trump administration is ignoring the climate crisis and working to seal the fate of this area to be hotter, drier and less ecologically sustainable.