The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released the draft Moab Master Leasing Plan (MLP) in August 2015. Master Leasing and Development Plans (“MLPs”) are a key component of BLM’s new oil and gas leasing reforms. They are designed to help the BLM identify, evaluate and resolve conflicts between oil and gas activity and important resource values, such as wilderness and wildlife habitat, across broad geographic landscapes. If developed and implemented properly, MLPs will create greater certainty for industry, since the BLM will have identified and addressed potential resource conflicts prior to the leasing and development stages. This will result in fewer protests from the public, while assuring that measures are in place to protect wildlife habitat, wilderness and other important resources of the public lands.
The draft plan, which covers upwards of one million acres, prohibits development or surface disturbance on almost 500,000 acres. Under the plan, new oil and gas drilling will be prohibited on 145,000 acres of land, while surface occupancy will be restricted on another 306,000 acres. Approximately one-quarter of the planning area already open to leasing will not be affected by the plan. The plan further provides strong protections for the famous Arches and Canyonlands National Parks by closing off mineral leasing and development on adjacent BLM lands, as well as prohibiting future development or surface occupancy at Fisher Towers, Porcupine Rim, Six-Shooter, and Goldbar Canyon.
Under the BLM’s current “preferred alternative,” Labyrinth Canyon and its many stunning side canyons would be targeted for leasing and drilling. The agency would also give potash development and its staggering water use the green light – with over 42,000 acres of public lands prioritized as “potash processing facility areas,” including sites near Labyrinth Canyon and at the entrance to the Needles and Anticline Overlook roads. EcoFlight and our conservation partners are working hard to highlight these vulnerable wild lands and the threats to them to ensure that the BLM selects Alternative C as the preferred alternative, as it provides the most comprehensive protection to critically important resources.
Protecting areas for their natural values not only preserves water quality and wildlife habitat, but it benefits the tourism industry that depends on it. Outdoor recreation is a major revenue source for the State of Utah, contributing $5.8 million annually to the state economy. Tourism in Utah, bolstered by outdoor recreational opportunities, supports more than 124,000 jobs with visitors spending over $6.5 billion annually.
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