BLM backs away from national parks

The drill rigs won’t be quite so close to Delicate Arch, the iconic sandstone bridge in Arches National Park, thanks to a last-minute decision by the Bureau of Land Management as it prepares to put gas leases in eastern Utah up for auction next month.

That’s welcome news. We’re glad to see the BLM pays some attention to its sister agency, the National Park Service, as it prepares new leases to allow natural gas exploration and production. But it could have done more.

The BLM is preparing more than 200 parcels in eastern Utah, totaling over 300,000 acres, for gas-lease auction on Dec. 19.

Last week, Mike Snyder, the regional director for the Park Service, wrote a letter to the BLM in Utah, protesting 93 parcels in the upcoming lease.

His list included parcels near Arches and Canyonlands national parks and Dinosaur National Monument. Several were within 1.3 miles of Delicate Arch. All had the potential to create noise, water and air pollution in the parks, Snyder said.

In response, the BLM withdrew 34 parcels from the lease sale.

Although Snyder said the BLM decision satisfied his greatest concerns, environmentalists aren’t happy that the BLM decided to proceed with leases on nearly 60 parcels which the Park Service had flagged. Some would just as soon have no more leasing as long as President George W. Bush is in the White House.

We believe that the BLM should have at least put those 59 parcels on hold while it examined in greater detail the concerns raised by the Park Service.

That said, the BLM has the right and authority to put other lands up for lease in Utah, even if it is the waning days of the Bush administration.


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