The San Rafael Swell, with its miles of twisting sandstone spires, towering mesas and hoodoos, has long been a draw for hiking and canyoneering, and parts of the area have been considered for protection under various designations such as national park, national monument, national conservation area, and wilderness.
In 2013, the BLM announced plans to open portions of the 2,000 square mile stretch of central Utah for oil and gas and tarsands drilling. But after an outpouring of public opposition with over 5,000 comments against the proposed drilling and protests at the agency office, the BLM dropped its plan to lease 80,000 acres of wilderness-quality lands.
Citizens argued that the Swell is too precious to drill and conservationists also argued that the lease sale was unnecessary. More than 3 million acres of BLM lands are already under lease in Utah but have not been developed. News of the BLM’s decision not to drill came as a victory to conservationists because this special landscape will be spared for now, from the impacts that the industry would have on the ecological and recreational values of the area.
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