Some tweaks to a proposed oil and gas lease auction in Utah could spare some potential impacts to Arches and Canyonlands national parks and Dinosaur National Monument, but conservationists say the National Park Service still dropped the ball.
While the Park Service initially objected to 91 tracts of land the BLM planned to auction next month, late Tuesday the agency apparently withdrew its concerns to 34 parcels, leaving 57 on the table. While the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance criticized this decision, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that those leases still on the table could apparently be altered down the road.
“It appears that the Park Service is being forced to accept the sale of leases that it contends will damage the air, water, and natural quiet of its parks,” said Stephen Bloch, SUWA's conservation director. “Despite public protests and the concerns of its own Park Service, the outgoing Bush administration is using this sale to push its extreme drill-everywhere agenda, and America’s national parks and other spectacular public lands will be the worse for it.”
Earlier Tuesday, a group of eight U.S. senators wrote Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne with a request that he postpone the December 19 lease sale until a closer look can be had at tracts near or adjacent to national parks.
The Salt Lake newspaper also reported that Congressman Raul Grijalva, who heads the House subcommittee on national parks and whose name has popped up in discussions about who might head the Interior Department under President-elect Obama, had written Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne with a request to halt the lease auction.