There’s a land grab going on in wilderness areas to drill for oil and natural gas. That means off-roading will soon be banned in scenic places like Moab, Utah. Specifically, the Trump administration is hammering the Interior Department and Bureau of Land Management to sell as many drilling leases as possible according to the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. This off-roading mecca will be shut off to the public.
The BLM has already scheduled almost 20 oil and gas lease sales on federal land in 2020 alone. The Trump administration has shrunken wilderness and national monument sites allowing new parcels once protected to be “nominated” for these 10-year leases. Situated in the Colorado Plateau watershed, besides the beautiful red-rock mesas and buttes, the Colorado River runs through it.
A review process was quickly completed so the BLM could set up the Moab parcel’s auction
Due to the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 large swaths of federal land can be nominated for oil drilling. Prairie Hills Oil & Gas of North Dakota has big plans for Moab. After it nominated Moab a review process was quickly completed so the BLM could set up the parcel’s auction. That will take place in September. It’s a 10-year deal where the government gets 12.5% of anything coming out of the ground. And if everything goes as planned the lease can be extended.
Because it’s an auction there is no guarantee Prairie Hills will be the winning bidder. But if not them other companies with the same intent ultimately will. So the plan will be to drill no matter who ends up with the lease.
Moab’s Times-Independent wrote, “99 more parcels locally have been nominated, some lying directly between Canyonlands and Arches. The bureau deferred leases on 26 of those parcels, primarily those directly between Canyonlands and Arches, leaving 73 that may go to bid following an ongoing period of public comment. Of those, 55 are clustered near Moab, and some are less than a mile north of Canyonlands National Park.”
Access to much of scenic Moab would be banned
For equipment protection, liability concerns, and safety, access to much of pristine Moab would be banned. And with that certain sulfur smell and oil grasshoppers pivoting up and down, up and down, who would want to visit it anyway? Your four-wheel-drive escapades would cease. We suppose Jeep would no longer sell Moab Edition Jeeps. It won’t be able to conduct its Easter Jeep Safari there, either. Moab has been its home since 1967.
“This land is beautiful,” Davis Filfred, a Navajo leader, told The New Yorker. “Where they’ve come, the land is completely contaminated. The water base is completely contaminated with petroleum, and with arsenic and selenium. The air—it smells like a rotten egg.” He added, “A hundred years from now—let’s say when my kid’s grandkids are here, we’re robbing them. I want them to see this land as it was Day One.”
“No more drilling on federal lands”
Yesterday the Moab Times-Independent noted, “Drilling activity has been slowly expanding toward Moab over the years. Of the 26 new wells currently approved for construction in Grand County, 23 of them are in the area north of Canyonlands. Many of the active or plugged wells in the area were drilled in or after 2000 while many of the plugged wells in the northern part of the county were drilled in the 1980s or prior, according to state data.”
We don’t want this to become a story about politics. But in juxtaposition to the wholesale leases being hoovered up at such a fast pace, presidential candidate Joe Biden says he would end new leases on federal lands for oil and gas drilling. He has said it numerous times, “No more drilling on federal lands. No more drilling, including offshore. No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period.”
The BLM is seeking public comment on the 73 parcels, plus four deferred from a June lease sale, now through July 9. Developers that win lease bids in September are subject to environmental review per drilling site where they seek to dig, according to the bureau. If you’ve ever taken your four-wheel-drive through the legendary trails of Moab you know its beauty.