Local Officials Oppose Oil, Gas Leasing In Sand Flats Recreation Area

Feb 7, 2020

Credit Molly Marcello, KZMU

Elected officials in Moab City and Grand County are now united in opposition to proposed oil and gas leasing in the Sand Flats Recreation Area. Both councils passed resolutions asking the Utah Bureau of Land Management to remove two nominated parcels from a June oil and gas lease sale.  

“It’s a water issue and it’s a recreation issue,” said Moab City Mayor Emily Niehaus.  

Sand Flats Recreation Area is home to the internationally known Slickrock Bike Trail. The county estimates Sand Flats contributes nearly $7 million dollars in net value to the local economy.  

The nominated parcels also sit on top of Moab’s sole source aquifer. There are concerns Moab’s tourism economy would be irreparably damaged if water resources were impaired. 

“And I think it’s worth it to mention that this particular area is our Sand Flats bike trail, and there are a lot of places where oil and gas development really fit with the landscape and this is just probably not one of them,” Niehaus said.  

The parcels in question do carry stipulations that bar surface disturbances like road building and drill pads, but hydrocarbons could be reached through horizontal drilling on adjacent lands.   

This nomination has drawn wide local opposition even from those known to mostly support oil and gas leasing, like county council member Curtis Wells.  

“You know generally I’m a supporter of multiple use. But I think particularly with Sand Flats, with the motorized and non-motorized - in addition to the camping and hiking – this just isn’t really a logical site for high potential oil and gas development,” Wells said. 

Grand County’s resolution calls the inclusion of these parcels in an oil and gas lease sale “irresponsible…development.”  

Thanks to Molly Marcello from KZMU in Moab for covering this story. Visit kzmu.org for more of her coverage.