U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials in Utah apparently have realized it might be a mistake to open up lands next to Canyonlands National Park to oil and gas leasing. After mulling over the matter, which Park Service officials strongly oppose, the BLM has agreed to withdraw two parcels from an auction scheduled for later this month.
The BLM's leasing decisions are being driven by the Bush administration's thirst for oil and gas development, no matter how ill-conceived the projects might be. And it remains to be seen if the agency will permanently withdraw the parcels across from Canyonland's Needles District. For now, the BLM says it simply is going to re-evaluate whether leasing the parcels would be detrimental to Canyonlands.
What do you think? How would you like a drilling pad and rig to be plopped down across the street from your house with a hope and a prayer that it might hit a sizeable reserve? Years ago when I worked in West Virginia there was a push to allow an exploration company to set up next to Canaan Valley State Park and, from across the street, drill horizontally into the earth beneath the park in its search for oil. How long before the Bush administration begins to think that sort of exploration is a good deal? Wouldn't it be something to negotiate an oil or gas field on your next trip to Canyonlands, or Arches, or any other national park?
For the federal government to consider allowing drill pads and a web of access roads to be installed next door to a national park is woefully shortsighted and ignorant, particularly when the energy resources in the area are so minimal in comparison to our needs.
The big problem with the energy bill Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have hungered for since they first took office in 2000 is that it does little to solve the country's energy needs. Instead of dolling out "incentives" to oil and gas companies that are making millions and millions of dollars in profits on inflated oil and gas prices the government should be funding research into alternative energy measures that would truly reduce our reliance on imported oil and, at the same time, reduce carbon emissions.
Instead the administration and most Republicans in Congress are solidly behind oil and gas development on western lands that will deface and defile the landscape, threaten wildlife, and do little if anything to improve our quality of life.