BLM actions on Utah oil, gas leases earn Wilderness Society praise

The Wilderness Society is praising federal actions in western Colorado and eastern Utah that protected Bureau of Land Management lands in 2009.

The group says it is giving one of its 10 CAPE (Comparative Analysis of Particular Excellence) Awards to the interagency federal review team that recommended re-evaluating Utah oil and gas leases, including some near national parks in the Moab area. The team also recommended overall improvements in the BLM’s oil and gas program.

As an aside, the Wilderness Society noted that BLM offices in states including Colorado withdrew leases from sales where they would impact sensitive resources, including near the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area west of Grand Junction. The BLM also let some leasing proceed near McInnis Canyons.

The Wilderness Society gave an honorable mention to the BLM’s Grand Junction Field Office for providing a second public-comment period as it revised its resource management plan. The agency sought comments on management of roads and trails.

The Wilderness Society gave honorable mention to the BLM in Utah for nominating 63 sites along Nine Mile Canyon for the National Register of Historic Places. Those listings have since occurred. The canyon has thousands of prehistoric rock carvings and paintings, and oil and gas development has raised concerns about protecting them.

The Wilderness Society gave a CAPE award to the staff of the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado for its management plan for the monument.

It gave its top CAPE Award to the BLM for issuing memos reinforcing the importance of protective management of lands in the conservation system. That protection is to be made a priority over the BLM’s multiple-use mandate when the two goals are in conflict, and interim protections must be enacted while management plans for new lands in the system are drawn up.

The Wilderness Society said in its awards announcement that “2009 brought a new sheriff to town, and we’ve been encouraged — and at times, outright delighted — by the promise to return truly balanced management to our public lands.”


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