President-Elect Obama's Team Hints At Reversing BLM Leasing Decisions in Utah

A decision by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to open thousands of acres of public lands abutting national park properties in Utah could be halted by President-elect Barack Obama once he takes office, according to his transition team.

"They want to have oil and gas drilling in some of the most sensitive, fragile lands in Utah," John Podesta, who heads the transition team, said Sunday on a Fox network news show. "I think that's a mistake."

It was on Election Day when BLM officials in Utah announced they planned next month to offer 360,000 acres for oil and natural gas leases. Some of the proposed leases lie adjacent to or near Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Dinosaur National Monument.

Mr. Podesta did not say, however, how the incoming president could reverse any leases auctioned off by the BLM before he takes office.

Comments

I'm not sure what can be done before the new administration takes office. After that time, the DOI can be instructed to attach additional environmental requirements to outstanding leases, and I think that will be the best defense against this assault on some of America's most treasured public lands.

On another note, BLM's Utah State Director Selma Sierra has 2.5 months worth of mischief left, hopefully the damage she does can be undone once President Obama takes office and she can be "reassigned".

That's O.K., we'll not need jobs cause Uncle Obama will be spreadin' the wealth!

Kurt: God forbid such a terrible misdeed to be enacted upon this scared land that offers so much to the world in natural beauty and recreation. This pathetic insensitivity by the Bush administration is just another example of the callus behavior that reflects more rape, pillage and greed. This is Bush's last stance of in your face politics to scorch earth the environment before leaving office. Yap, trash the White House files, burn the bridges and pollute the environment before leaving to his Texas peacock ranch. Bush your legacy as President will be written in heavy scorn for many many years to come.

Geez, Anon, do you have anything to say other than recite talking points?

Try researching issues for yourself and come back with an educated opinion.

Kurt, the above comment is not mine. FYI

Anon,
You need to see a good psychiatrist to cure your obviously serious case of BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome).

Well Roger, with Bush's recent approval ratings at a lowly 28%, the worst in American Presidential history, I guess I must be on something that justifies my discontent with the man. What's your excuse for his foul-up administration? I believe there's plenty of us that feel strongly as I do about the pathetic performance of this and now former President to be. Roger, I don't hate the man but I deeply despise what he's done to this country (his hate & divide syndrome) and to are world wide prestige. Tell me differently!

How about the Democrat congress' 17% approval rating? Besides, if it were not for the liberal media feeding people like you misinformation, he would probably be at 60%. All it's been outa them for 8 years is HATE, HATE, HATE.
And I really don't care what the rest of the world thinks of us...I've been to 19 different countries and NONE of them are worth living in compared to the USA...and they know it.
History will look at President GW Bush fondly...especially as the continued threat of Islamofascism plays out...he was the first president with the cajones to take the fight to them since the Shores of Tripoli. Under Obama, they will reload and regroup for a much, much more deadly attack on our homeland.

I think the term "fondly" is a bit of a stretch for the legacy Georgie Jr. will leave behind. Terms more akin to "with amusement", or maybe "with bewilderment" or "misguided" come to mind, particularly given the debacle that is the middle eastern "war". "Fondly" seems to be the current sentiments pertaining to Alan Greenspan, who "coincidentally" jumped ship at the most opportune moment. Ever consider what HE knew that was kept secret from the American public specific to our economic status?

The current approval rating of Congress must appear as golden to any resident of the State of Illinois who are saddled with a limp weenie of a governor with a single-digit approval rating. Now THAT'S a true accomplishment for ANY democrat in a state that has been a democratic stronghold for about a century! Well done, Rod!!!

Getting back to the title of the thread, please note that the operative word here is HINTS.........more politispeak from your "friends" on The Hill. No substance, just jargon. Nothing that they can be held accoutable for in any way, shape or form. How typical. How sad. "Obama for Change"? I believe not. But only time will bear witness and unveil his legacy. I, for one, refuse to get my hopes up for any manner of true "change", except in the rhetoric he chooses to utter.

Anon: Obviously you only talk the talk and not walk the walk because if you had been in the area you might notice some drilling rigs already. They are so non obtrusive that it is hardly noticed in this wide expanse of beautiful, glorious land.

Cookie, full-field development is not unobtrusive in the least. Just Google "Jonah Field" and take a look at the photos and air quality problems that have arisen in and around Pinedale, Wyoming.

Even partial field development is fairly obtrusive, particularly when you think of all the access roads skittering here and there across the landscape, roads that ORVs will gravitate to.

Cookie, my closest ally that works for the U.S. Forestry Service (forestry ecologist) tells me exactly what Kurt describes...a scarred environment that is indeed very obtrusive.
Don't be an ostrich with your head buried in the sand and take a REAL hard look.

So...I looked at the Jonah Field site...I can't figure out what you see wrong...looks like money and probably smells like money to me! JOBS too! And gee...even perhaps some good clean fuel for our cars!
The real problem here is that those like yourself that pray to the altar of "Gaia" have taken away jobs and have become so radical that you are not even revelant anymore. ANY hint of resource extraction is met with cries of "the sky is falling" and "oh, whine-whine, the earth is dying." I really think that perhaps we oughta start drilling right smack dab in the middle of a park, so that when we do it outside, you'll quit your whinin'!
Do you drive a car? How do you heat your house? Where are you getting your electricity to power the 'puter you are typing on?
Stop the whimperin'!
P.S. Good book just out: "Red Hot Lies" by Chris Horner...ya might wanna read it:
http://www.amazon.com/Red-Hot-Lies-Alarmists-Misinformed/dp/1596985380

Hi LoneHiker:

just looking at the body of the article about Podesta's remarks, and the headline here of "HINTS," I'd say 'hints' is the right word here, and attacking Kurt's headline seems to me is unwarranted. Or characterizing '"friends" on The Hill' as if he were in some sort of conspiracy. Please be fair, as usually you are.

Doesn't it seem to you that what is going on here with Podesta and the President-Elect is the normal need to raise an issue to public attention, before they decide exactly how to act on that issue? This is, as you must know, an important way to get things said in advance, to avoid paying later for acting without all the info, or info and public understanding.

The Hill democrats pointed out during the campaign that Oil companies had failed to drill in areas they already had leasing rights for, but were instead trying to cherry-pick by opening up Outer Cont. Shelf areas for oil development. Few in the US will understand that since the Reagan-Watt days oil companies have been allowed to cherry-pick on the oil reserves on land. In a break with long standing oil reserves conservation policy to extract the maximum amount of oil from each field, James Watt as secretary of the interior offered large amounts of tracts for lease simultaneously. This allowed companies to obtain leases essentially with no competition on a track-by-track basis, and ALSO allowed the companies to pick only the most profitable track in a specific field, allowing the rest of the oil to be wasted. [unless you go for all the oil at once, the less productive tracts become sub-economic, in the same way that the health insurance of senior citizens becomes hugely expensive if you take seniors out of the general pool for health insurance.] Anyway, the result of all this is under the existing 'system' [when corruption is really enormous, we change its name to "policy"] oil companies get to lock up domestic undeveloped oil fields and hold them until they want to develop them.

Because of the cherry picking, some of these fields may have been ruined for feasible development for years to come. Some, with careful management (including the need to cancel some non-performing leases), may be brought back if and when prices get high enough. Some are too sensitive to develop, because of the other valuable resources in the vicinity, resources that could include water resources or wilderness values.

All government owned oil fields are not in the above category, but as a result of the poor understanding of all this by the Media, few distinctions were drawn in the public mind about what public lands should or should not be open to development.

It makes sense to me that Potesta needs to begin to raise the issue with the public that we need to put together a balanced and thoughtful energy strategy. You must have been around long enough to know this is a critical political skill, not something reprehensible. Even if you completely believe something, in a democracy you have to begin the discussion first with the public. Look how poorly Secretary Babbitt did by just announcing to the public his own personal preferences, rather than building a constituency first. Some of our greatest acts of leadership, such as Lincoln slowly raising the possibility of the emancipation proclamation, or Franklin Roosevelt gradually raising the need to support Britain against the Nazis were conducted this way.

One purpose of discussions such as all of us are having on this blog is to get the complexities out there for consideration, and reconsideration.

Please don't blame Kurt for his "friends" on The Hill. And don't think there is something wrong going on as a government official begins to raise an issue to the public.

Roger, until you know me a little better I'd prefer you not speculate as to whose alter I pray to or what my views are on resource extraction.

There is indeed a "smell" about the Jonah Field, one that Pinedale residents don't particularly enjoy. Jobs indeed are being created, but so is crime, resource destruction, wildlife habitat fragmentation, pollution, and a significant jump in cost of living, one that has made Sublette County the second-most expensive place to live in Wyoming, behind only Teton County.

Local officials report that "Sublette Co. has a smaller and less diverse array of small businesses than it did before the gas boom, and state figures show the number of retail and entertainment businesses and employees declining from 2000-2006, while the food service industry remained stagnant despite boomtown growth. Staffing considerations make starting a small business in Sublette Co. difficult at best. Daycare facilities continue to face long waiting lists and new providers are hard to find due to labor and real estate price considerations. Tourism in Sublette County currently suffers from a lack of lodging options, at least 75% of rooms are booked nightly by industry workers and rooms easily rent for $90 night – in the summer months reservations are often required.

Is this healthy? Should one industry suffocate all others? Socio-economic concerns shouldn't be ignored when it comes to making decisions on where to dig or drill. Indeed, some communities just might prefer a more-rounded, cleaner economy.

All that said, I'm not ignoring the country's need for energy. My point is that what the BLM is trying to accomplish in Utah doesn't seem to be carefully thought out, not when you consider the scant energy reserves that possibly exist and the detrimental impacts to other segments of the regional economy, ie tourism. Beyond that, I would prefer to see just as much, if not more, emphasis placed on development of alternative energy sources. If you interpret that as whining, so be it.

Back at ya d-2:

I wasn't criticizing Kurt for his trailer....which as I see it states that it is none other than Obama's Team, in particular J. Podesta, along with other members of the "organIzation" whose inference it is that the policy / decisions MIGHT be overturned, not Kurt directly. Nor am I suggesting that those responsible for the statements are friends, directly or otherwise of our moderator. I guess my original post should have stated "our", not "your" friends on The Hill. Pardon my literary lapse.

However, I do believe there is a marked difference between publicizing an issue and bringing an issue before the public conscience. One is little more that a blatant form of grandstanding, while the other more generally serves to solicit opinions or motivate those concerned. Again speaking solely for myself, I believe this current ploy to be more the former than the latter. I sense this is the point at which you and I begin to interpret the gist of the issue and the methodolgy used by the administration's representative differently. I'm skeptical of ANY political posturing, but none more so than in the wake of election day, when the spotlights are shining their brightest. Jaded? You bet....guilty as charged. Gullible? Not in the least. I'll take jaded anytime.

It's one thing for American's to disagree with policies but it's a completely different matter to see so many who are unwilling to address the critical obstacles to keeping America free and safe. How about that domestic energy plan? The president elect is too busy setting the state to ram through U.S. taxpayers funding worldwide abortion (Freedom of Choice Act). I for one am unwilling to fund giving government the power over the beginning and end of life. That is above my paygrade!

One of our major problems is that we've never had a truly viable and comprehensive national energy plan. I'm not interested in which label is attached to the party currently in power, nor in the personalities, but I am interested in the results. I can only hope that the incoming administration will do a better job than previous ones of both parties in establishing some serious national energy goals and a strategy to reach them. What we've seen in recent years isn't a strategy - it's a give-away of valuable public resources.

An effective energy policy can certainly recognize that some places are better suited to active oil, gas and other energy development than others. As discussed in other threads on this site, there's no logical reason to rush to lease areas in or next to sensitive sites for oil and gas - there are large areas of public lands already under lease that won't be developed for years.

One reason development of existing leases is moving slowly is economics - now that prices for oil and gas have dropped, some large companies are scaling back on development of leases they already hold. An example is the huge natural gas field near Dallas-Ft. Worth called the Barnett Shale. A major player in that project has announced recently that it's scaling back purchase of leases. This is in a area of huge, proven gas reserves. If the companies aren't expanding leases in such areas, it's hard to defend tying up areas such as Utah with new leases on unproven terrain.

I wish I could agree with Cookie that drilling rigs are "unobtrusive." However, I live in the middle of the East Texas oil patch, and have had rigs working within a couple of miles of my house for the past year. They are definitely intrusive, in terms of noise, dust, nighttime light and smell - but that goes with the territory here, and I'd much rather have them here than next to a national park, where the chance to escape from those intrusions is much more important.

This refers to use of BLM land, not National Parks land. In my area (Nevada) BLM land is being taken constantly for housing, retail and manufacturing. Is drilling more obtrusive (noisy, smelly, brightly lit) than that?

I am a lover and user of our National Parks. So many people with opinions about the use of it NEVER use it! In my travels I have seen we have saved these beautiful areas mostly for foreign travelers. And ME!

Cookie--

I volunteered as a museum host for two weeks this summer at Yellowstone's Museum of the National Park Ranger. I, too, was impressed by the number of foreign visitors, although most of them attributed their excursion to the States to the favorable exchange rates since the dollar was in the toilet during that time. But, and this is a big but, I met hundreds of American visitors, also, people doing the kinds of vacations that are traditional--doing the western parks with the family. I was surprised at how popular the junior ranger program is with US kids. Each night at the evening campfire program at Norris, there were a line of kids seeking the signature of the ranger who had presented the program to prove that they had satisfied one of the requirements--attend an evening ranger program--for getting their junior ranger shoulder patch. Many of them came into the museum with their patches already attached to their shirts with safety pins. They were really proud of completing the program. It was really heart-warming to see how excited they were.

So, US people still use the parks, but the families are there only in the summer when school is out. I can remember several times in the winter when I was the only English-speaker at Mather Point in Grand Canyon or at the old Flamingo Motel during the summer in Everglades when only Europeans were willing to brave the mosquitos or didn't know about them.

Rick Smith

In the past I've made mention of my interactions with the various manner of person who choose to "indulge" themselves on the road less traveled, such as those I frequent. I find it amusing (and rather sad to say the least) that in my personal experience, the ratio of "foreign" to "domestic" visitors is easily 8-9:1 in favoring the wide diversity of foreign visitors, with representatives from most other continents. The sad feeling that I find myself wrestling with is that it appears from my most unscientific statistical gathering that our own American people are those most guilty of the "quick hitter" visit; drive in, park the car, run here and there, race back to the car and get the hell out of Dodge post-haste. Maybe the American tourist thinks that he'll be back soon enough to truly indulge him/herself in the cathedrals we call our National Parks, but rather I get the sick feeling that we've grown accustomed to taking these places for granted, or just plain "don't have the time", or most likely, "don't want to / physically can't expend the effort" to truly enjoy and discover all that comprise our precious NPS units. "Those damn foreigners" to which you refer are here to see the America that initially appeared to them via old movie sets, paintings, documentaries, and inferred frames drawn from their imaginations after reading various printed media, and they have both the time and the energy to make the most of what is most commonly a once-in-a-lifetime excursion to a place they thought only existed on celluloid or parchment. They're here to get the full experience, not some fly-by-night version that our own people call "seeing it all". For what it's worth, these are not my personal editorialized interpretations of someone's intentions; rather, I'm relating as verbatim as I can the substance of many conversations that I've had with hundreds of tourists from literally dozens of countries over the years. It hurts to hear them say that I'm one a precious few "locals" they've encountered in the backcountry, as they were sure Americans only existed near the lodges.

In short Cookie, let's not bemoan the foreign tourists who "invade the sanctity" of our parks. I, for one, enjoy the hell out of these people, who for the most part, observe the highest levels of etiquette on the trails, are extremely polite and well spoken (save a certain group from the far East who shall remain nameless), and generally exhibit a high level of respect for their fellow travelers and their environment, which sadly to say is quite a juxtaposition to the average "local". I find not one iota of "fault" or "blame" with these visitors. Quite the opposite, the fault for our own people's attitudes, behaviors, lack of manners and most of all, lack of interest, is all OURS.

Lone Hiker: Good points and I myself enjoy the camaraderie of those hearty foreign visitors. Wow, those Germans and Swiss sure love our mountains and endless miles of hiking trails through our National Parks. I love there energy and robust attitude towards the great outdoors. The more the better attitude! While us lazy Americans would rather tip-toe through the parks without a feeling of it's pulse or existence...dash in and dash out, but forgetting why we were there in the first place. I met a young German man hiking up Mt. Whitney some years ago and I was surprised by his attempt to scale it in one day and back. Here he was with his day pack, German leather shorts and one good parka and all GO. I told him it was a mean hike to the top of old Mt. Whitney (14,400') and with his broken German accent replies in English: We Germans do this all the time in the Bavarian Mts. Long story short, he makes it to the top and back in less then half of a day. I just love this guys spirit of adventure which was filled with zest and zeal of great physical stamina. The fact is, most foreign visitors that I have met in the past, have taken a great interests in our National Parks. There's a deep sense of curiosity and awe written on their faces when coming upon the many beautiful splendors in which the National Parks were created for. Something which us Americans take for granted and with less appreciation...and it does show!


I fully agree with the insights of Rick and Lone Hiker, and the full respect to all visitors. There is also a lift you can get from the thrill you can see in foreign travelers; they seem to be energized by a freshness in how American the parks are.

There is a tendency for any people to take for granted their own area, but it does not mean it is a fatal or permanent condition. People may come back and experience it again, when they are ready, and have a deeper time of it. We do seem as a people right now to be enthralled in Media, not experience.

I think Lone Hiker is right about the value of deeper immersion in the resource. It changes you. I do think when you plan to travel to a foreign country you are more likely to plan an event, and not just experience the visitor center or the park road.

Maybe during this time of economic downturn it would be good to conceive of new programs to bring young people to the parks. Or, make sure that parks are part of any 'national service' opportunity for young people. I still believe Americans can and do appreciate their parks when they are provoked into a real experience in a park.

I did not intend to imply I "bemoan" foreign travelers. I am just amazed that there are so many more of them than US travelers. We like to camp in or near the parks and have truly enjoyed sharing them with people from all countries.

And finally, to the point made by Mr. Burnett regarding his position that "One of our major problems is that we've never had a truly viable and comprehensive national energy plan." I think I get the general drift of your intentions here, but I believe that years ago our government decided on and committed to the path of the national energy "policy" by conducting what we would now consider rudimentary evaluations of the future needs of the still developing nation, estimating that the existing reserves in east Texas, California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma etc. were insufficient to sustain the growth, and saw the middle eastern desert reserves and the local governments as exploitable. They "befriended" those who possessed the largest resource and proceeded to sell our nation's soul to the devil, striking an accord that in essence comes down to the following: "We'll supply (i.e. you'll pay us for the rights) the technology to develop your fields and make you the richest nation on earth, we'll back your regime and do anything necessary to insure domestic stability, politically speaking, and "protect" you from foreign insurgents by stationing our military personnel on your soil. In return, we agree to turn a blind eye and ear to how you conduct day-to-day affairs internally, and we would also expect some considerations in terms of production levels and pricing structures that favor our domestic national interests. We'll continue to supply any and all resources that you require for additional development of your fields, and even assist in your desires to become the local ruling and producing behemoth in the region. We'll assist in overthrowing and/or undermining any local government that causes you an uncomfortable level of concern to your long-term economic health. And we would appreciate you remembering how you got to where you are in the world, and where you would be without our assistance."

Ah, another in a long series of shining examples of how our country attempts to conduct its expansionistic form of world domination through capitalistic manipulation.

This scenario played out all well and good short term, as it allowed for our country's economy to expand, our technology to have steady access to a major tool of development, and furthered our military stranglehold on a region that we couldn't allow the "Red Devils" to gain access to first, thereby effectively isolating us from the world's largest sources of petroleum, which at the time was THE source of economic development world-wide.

Fast forward half a century to our current position on the world's timeline.

EVERYTHING in the world's climate has changed. Politically and militarily no "superpower" exists that causes us the "clear and present" concerns as did once the old Soviet Union. The local Middle Eastern governments have acquired a taste for power built solely on their ONE resource, and by default, WE are the ones that brought that monster out of the closet. We are no longer the only game in town specific to an ability to assist in another nation's technological development. As opposed to the worlds "savior and protector", a title we bestowed upon ourselves by the way, we are now the world's biggest (and possibly ONLY) bully, and are rightfully scorned and resented within the world community for the actions and attitudes that we display. It seems as though the only people on the planet who don't "get it", who have yet to ascertain the fact that the climate has indeed changed, reside within the American governmental system, who insist on conducting their affairs with the same old business-as-usual attitude. And it ain't workin' no more! Surprise, surprise, surprise as Gomer would have said. But even Gomer, in retrospect, appears to have more intellect than do the buffoons in Washington. IN the government that is.......no offense to the local populace, I assure you.

For these and many other reason I implore everyone who reads and especially those who take the time to respond to sites like these to grab the cajones of your local elected officials and give them ONE chance for change. And if they don't respond to you, threaten them at their most sensitive level, their electorate. That ALWAYS gets their attention, REAL quick. And don't accept form letters and pat answers in return either. Make certain they grasp the reality, and that they understand that you comprehend the reality that in no uncertain terms our future as a nation, our "national security" and our stake as a future leader in the world's economic and technological marketplace DEMANDS that we take pole position in the development and application of alternative energy sources. It is so painfully easy to cut the Middle Eastern giant off at the knees and send them back into isolation in the deserts from whence they came with nothing but a resource that nobody wants, they can't sell, and thereby driving THIER economies into the ground. Better them than us!!!!

Now, if any of you still confuse my stance on the need for development of alternative energy sources with some lame "tree hugging, enviro-maniac" tag that some folks just LOVE to hang on people, all you're doing is demonstrating your ignorance of the overall issues at hand. Whether we choose to allow domestic development in the environmentally sensitive areas of the nation or not is a small matter in the grand scheme of things. Take your short-term solution to a long-term problem and get into politics. You'll appear brilliant under those auspices. We as a nation need to begin seeking meaningful, more permanent solutions to what is admittedly a most complex issue. It's not as simple as "these drilling rigs are ugly" or "they're ruining the environment" or "we need the oil / gas / jobs / economic development". Make an attempt to view the entire scope of the issue before you begin to criticize someone else's suggestions.

PS - I did hug a tree once, but that was only 'cause it smelled like vanilla......gotta love those Ponderosa pines!!!

Lone Hiker -

An interesting summary of our relationship with the rest of the world in terms of energy, and our overall "energy policy." I agree with much of what you say.

I certainly agree with you on the need to emphasize development of alternative energy sources. That, along with wiser use of all sources of energy, is the only long-term solution to our energy problem. Yes, we'll continue to need oil and gas as well, but we need to minimize our dependence on it as quickly as possible, for economic, geopolitical, national security and environmental reasons.

Hey - another fan of Ponderosa pines! Unfortunately, we don't have them where I live, but I sure enjoy that wonderful smell whenever I'm back in Ponderosa territory.
(For benefit of anyone who is wondering what we're talking about, on a warm day a mature Ponderosa pine has a faint but wonderful odor that reminds many people of vanilla - or cream soda. If the weather is right, you can enjoy the aroma just by standing in a large grove of the trees, but for the full effect, you've got to become one of those "tree huggers," and just get your nose right up next to the bark of a large tree.)