Nov 25, 11:03 PM EST
Bureau of Land Management Pulls Auction Parcels on Oil-and-Gas Drilling Near National Parks
By PAUL FOY, Associated Press Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (AP)–Drilling leases on and near the border of Utah’s scenic national parks have been pulled from an auction block.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced its decision late Tuesday after negotiations with National Park Service officials who objected to noise, lights and air pollution near Arches National Park, Dinosaur National Monument and Canyonlands National Park, all in Utah.
Some of those parcels were within 1.3 miles of Delicate Arch, a freestanding span of 33 feet that is the signature landmark at Arches near Moab, Utah.
Hundreds of thousands of acres throughout Utah will still be auctioned off Dec. 19 for oil and gas drilling.
In all, the Park Service objected to 93 parcels where drilling could drown out the sounds of wind, water and wildlife for visitors, possibly contaminate nearby springs and worsen ozone levels, Mike Snyder, the Denver-based regional Park Service director, wrote Monday in a protest letter to the bureau.
BLM maps showed the agency will remove 34 parcels from the December auction, including those bunched along park boundaries.
That was little more than a third of what the Park Service wanted eliminated.
Snyder, however, showed no disappointment. “Working with Selma Sierra, the BLM Utah state director, has resulted in the kind of resource protection that Americans want and deserve for their national parks,” he said in a joint statement.
Snyder couldn’t be reached for comment late Tuesday.
The BLM left some drilling parcels-including parts of three tracts near Arches park-on the auction list which critics say could still ruin park views.
“I don’t know why we’re that desperate to compromise the extraordinary values of the national parks. Any industrialization of areas adjacent to park creates irreparable damage,” said Dave Nimkin, a regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association.
The BLM, he said, “would burn the Rembrandts to heat the castles.”
Other leases include parcels on high cliffs along whitewater sections of Desolation Canyon, an area explored by John Wesley Powell in 1896, and plateaus populated by big game atop Nine Mile Canyon, home to thousands of ancient rock art panels.