Sand Flats pulled from potential drilling sites

Announcement follows pushback from local officials, Utah governor

sand flats overlooks grandstaff canyon
Two areas inside Sand Flats Recreation Area, shown here, are no longer on the market by the Bureau of Land Management for oil and gas leasing after pushback from local and state officials. Photo by Carter Pape

The BLM announced today, Feb. 21, that parcels 11 and 12, located within Moab’s Sand Flats Recreation Area, will not be included in the June 2020 competitive oil and gas lease sale. The move follows pushback from the city council, county council and state officials.

“To provide certainty to the public,” a statement from BLM spokesperson Kimberly Finch read, “The BLM is sharing this information with the public prior to issuing the June competitive oil and gas lease sale environmental assessment (EA). The BLM has not yet offered any parcels for the June 2020 lease sale.”

Officials said that they understood the public “has concerns” about the two parcels being considered for lease.

“After careful consideration and analysis over the last two months, those parcels will not be included in the proposed June oil and gas lease sale,” said Moab Field Manager Nicollee Gaddis-Wyatt

Finch said that the BLM decides whether to include parcels in lease sales after members of the public submit informal expressions of interest in parcels, such as the two in Sand Flats. The upcoming environmental assessment that the BLM will conduct on the other parcels proposed for sale will identify which parcels may be offered in the competitive lease sale, as well as potential impacts.

The environmental assessment “helps the public to make informed comments,” Finch said. Finch said the BLM plans to release the environmental assessment for public review and comment during next week.

“Recreation access is a priority of ours — as well as responsible energy development — and both provide important economic benefits to Utah,” said Acting Canyon Country District Manager Brian Quigley in the statement. “As a resident, recreator, and manager of public lands in Moab, I understand the public’s concerns.”

Gaddis-Wyatt said that the BLM is “committed to supporting recreation and protecting natural resources” in the area and “to listening to our neighbors and representatives in the local communities.” The BLM and Grand County have co-managed Sand Flats since 1994, and Gaddis-Wyatt said the BLM values “that enduring relationship.”