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Feds Begin Leasing Process For Oil And Gas Drilling Near National Parks

Labyrinth Canyon, nominated for an oil and gas drilling lease.
Ray Bioxham/SUWA

If you find yourself at Islands in the Sky at Canyonlands National Park, your evening view might be interrupted by oil and gas drilling.  

“There’s giant flames that you can see from the park,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

Newell is worried more scenic views will be disrupted. The Federal Bureau of Land Management, which is under the Interior Department, is opening over 100,000 acres of public land for oil and gas drilling near some of Utah’s well-known national parks. 

For example, within a half mile of Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Arches, and within a few miles of Bears Ears National Monument.

“But really what it looks like to me, this is the going out of business sale for the Trump administration,” said Newell. “This is their last-ditch effort to help out their oil and gas allies.”

Newell is worried about the impact that drilling has on the climate, on wildlife, and what it means for the tourism driven region of the state.

“No one wants to mountain bike next to an oil rig. And no one wants to hike next to a pipeline,” said Newell.

Since fewer people are travelling during the pandemic, there’s a glut of oil.

“There is no need for new oil, at all,” said Newell.

The Bureau of Land Management wants to make clear that oil and gas leasing has not yet begun.  

“Nothing has been approved for drilling, none of the parcels have been approved yet,” said Marshall Thompson, spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management’s Utah Office.

The bids for leases could begin as early as September.

The Trump Administration has been actively pushing for more oil and gas drilling on public lands. Now is the time for the public to weigh in. The Bureau is accepting public comments through July 9.