The Bureau of Land Management announced the completion of its environmental review for a landmark oil and gas leasing plan on federal lands between Arches and Canyonlands national parks.
The release of the Moab Master Leasing Plan (MLP) is the result of a collaborative process where the BLM listened to the needs of local leaders as well as from representatives of the resource extraction, recreation and conservation communities to decide how oil and gas should be leased in shared landscapes including national parks and other valued lands.
“The reaching of a consensus between BLM, the National Park Service, and local stakeholders for smart development near Arches and Canyonlands national parks is an important achievement not just for protecting two of the most beloved national parks in the nation, but also for the many stakeholders who worked together to find the right balance between development and protection in the region,” said National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) Southwest Regional Director David Nimkin.
The resulting Moab MLP underscores the vital role Arches and Canyonlands national parks play in the strong Moab economy. Altogether, the Moab MLP provides excellent protections for Arches and Canyonlands, two of Utah’s famous “Mighty 5” national parks that bring more than $200 million to Moab each year. As the BLM heard from many local stakeholders, the environmental resources and visitation experience of these economic anchors would have been harmed if energy development would have been permitted on adjacent park lands.
“These parks and adjacent public lands are important economic drivers for Moab, bringing millions of dollars each year into the local economy. This plan will help protect these resources and recreation experiences from energy development,” said Nimkin. “The best result of collaboration happens when all parties are willing to listen, and the BLM should be commended for listening to the Park Service, NPCA, and other key stakeholders to craft the best management plan for these Utah park icons. This plan offers a level of thoughtful detail that is not reflected in the Resource Management Plan for the area.”
In December 2008, the outgoing Bush Administration offered up 77 oil and gas leases on 130,000 acres of BLM lands, including several on pristine lands near Arches National Park. The immediate outcry from national park visitors and local recreationists prompted the Obama Administration to announce a series of reforms in order to create a more balanced approach to how leases are issued in sensitive areas.
The most innovative of those reforms were MLPs, which seek to provide custom leasing plans in areas of high interest. Federal lands of interest to oil and gas developers are also valued for many other reasons, including conservation, recreation, tribal interests, archaeology, and wildlife. The BLM is currently evaluating 17 MLPs in the West, on lands adjacent to several national parks, including Dinosaur National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and Capitol Reef National Park.
Last month, NPCA released a report detailing the success MLPs have had balancing protections for national parks and other sensitive lands with responsible energy development.