Some of the land recently marked for drilling in Utah may be pulled from the oil and gas auction block. In late summer and early fall, six resource management plans were rushed through at a break neck speed, opening up 80 percent of the 11 million acres in the planning areas for energy development.
Cultural and wilderness conservation groups, as well as other government agencies like the National Park Service, argued that the planning process was too fast and that they did not have time to adequately respond to the radical changes that the plans outlined for Utah's public lands. NPS officials were particularly concerned that air quality within the parks would degrade if the lands surrounding them were opened for drilling.
At the time, these grievances seemed to fall on deaf ears at the BLM. After some urging from U.S. Senators, meetings with NPS and pressure from the incoming Obama administration (not to mention plummeting energy prices), however, some of the lands that ring Utah's national parks will be withdrawn from the oil and gas lease sales slated for later this month.
This is a small step backward for the Bush administration's last minute drill, drill, drill! campaign. However, it's not exactly cause for celebration. The change -- withdrawing 38,000 acres from drilling -- is a minor adjustment to majorly flawed plans, and the vast majority of the contested land is still going to be leased on December 19.