BLM defends Utah lease sale as its state office defers more tracts

The US Bureau of Land Management defended its scheduled Dec. 19 oil and gas lease sale in Utah on Dec. 2 as its state office deferred additional parcels.

The US Department of the Interior agency deferred tracts in the Nine Mile Canyon area below the canyon's rim and in the Desolation Canyon area "to further review stipulations and mitigation measures for this area," BLM's Utah state office said. It said that it also has deferred parcels over coal fields to avoid potential conflicts with underground mining.

The latest deferrals came a week after Utah State BLM Director Selma Sierra agreed to defer parcels over which the US National Park Service expressed concern following two days of discussion between the two agencies.

BLM also posted a "myth vs. reality" document on its main website in response to the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and other regional environmental groups which have charged that the agency bypassed usual procedures in preparing for the Dec. 19 lease sale. SUWA responded with a posting at its website, www.suwa.org, disputing several parts of the BLM's defense.

The group also has attacked the six resource management plans in the state which received final BLM approval in late October and early November. The plans "opened millions of acres to off-road vehicle use and oil and gas development, and placed unsurveyed archaeological artifacts, wildlife habitat, and rivers and streams in harm's way," SUWA said on Nov. 26.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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