The lands protected by the order include Labyrinth, Tusher and Bartlett canyons, Sand Flats, and Hatch Point. The judge’s order resulted from a lawsuit filed by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, and other conservation organizations, and will stay in effect until the court rules further in a few months.
As reported in The Times-Independent last week, central to the decision was the concern for air pollution generated by oil and gas development.
It is important to note that the judge’s order calls into question not only this one lease sale, but also the legality of the six new resource and travel management plans (RMPs) that BLM rushed to finish before the Bush administration departed. These plans govern the management of 11 million acres of public lands in eastern Utah – including all the BLM land in Grand County – for oil, gas and other mineral development, and off-road vehicle use.
Many in Moab realized just how bad these new RMPs truly are only when they saw the first indication of what the Moab RMP meant for us – this challenged lease sale – and we learned the BLM’s plan allows the agency to lease lands under our neighbors’ homes, as well as the remarkable public lands surrounding Moab.
If the judge ultimately reverses the BLM’s oil and gas lease sale decision, the Moab RMP could fall as well. This would give the Obama Administration a chance to bring balanced management to our public lands surrounding Moab, and to protect our watershed and air quality based on science.
Thanks to everyone who filed a protest on the December oil and gas lease sale, or submitted a letter during the resource and travel management plan process. Your concerns may finally get addressed, and the Moab area may gain the protection it deserves.
—Liz Thomas, SUWA field attorney