u.s. to auction utah canyonlands to oil and gas exploration

On December 19, 300,000 acres of spectacular red-rock canyonlands in Utah will be opened up to oil and gas speculators.

Unless Bushco's fossil-fuels gang is stopped, lands near Canyonlands National Parks, Arches National Parks and Dinosaur National Monument, will be turned over to the highest bidder, then turned into an industrial wasteland. Subsequent auctions will follow, until the leases on 6.4 million acres are sold.

In an exaggeration of the classic Friday-afternoon news dump, the Cheney Administration announced these plans on Election Day. They didn't even tell the National Park Service until it was a done deal.

Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council, writing in Huffington Post:
I thought I couldn't be shocked any more. After all, the past eight years have taught me that despite the availability of clean energy technology, the Bush administration will always place oil and gas drilling above all other options.

But still I was caught by surprise when the Bureau of Land Management announced it plans to hand over 6.4 million acres of public lands near some of Utah's most famous national parks to oil and gas companies.

This parting gift to energy executives - the equivalent of swag at the end of Bush's long, industry-crammed bacchanal - hit a new low. Here is why.

1. Utah's Redrock Country Is One-of-a-Kind

While it may look like an empty expanse on the map, Southern Utah is full of fantastical landscapes that can be seen nowhere else.

I first journeyed there after college, when nothing in my East Coast background prepared me for the red, sinuous canyon walls, the fine pink sand, the wind-sculpted rock towers--or the rattlesnake I almost sat on after a dip in a cool wash. I don't get to return as often as I like, but the memory of lying on smooth slick rock like a lizard basking in the sun rejuvenates me still.

2. The Public Uses This Public Land

Southern Utah is a mecca for Patagonia-clad rock climbers and diehard river rats, but they aren't the only ones who feel its pull. Families flock to the area for spectacular and inexpensive vacations. In the fall, the region is full of senior citizens enjoying our nation's accessible natural heritage.

If the BLM has its way, those vacations will look a lot different. Imagine traveling to see world-famous Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, only to have your experience of high-desert beauty marred by industrial drill sites just 1.3 miles away from the arch.

Other favorite sites are vulnerable as well. The BLM wants to lease land next to:

• Dinosaur National Park, where dinosaur-loving children watch paleontologists at work on active digs

• Desolation Canyon on the Green River, a favorite of boaters since John Wesley Powell wrote about it in 1896

• Nine Mile Canyon, an outdoor gallery covered with rock art that sheds light on life among the Anasazi

• Slick Rock Trail, the route that made Moab a center of mountain biking

3. Not Just Scattered Drill Pads, But an Industrial Network

Exploration may start with drill sites here and there, but then those sites get connected by a massive overlay of pipelines, pump stations, and maintenance roads. Remember, this is country where you can see for 40, 60, even 100 miles. The oil and gas infrastructure likely will not be hidden by a ridgeline or forest; it will be exposed for all to see and hear.

You might hike through the utter quiet of Canyonlands National Park - a stillness that has been lost from most of our lives - only to climb a plateau and have the silence shattered by the constant, throbbing sound of a natural gas compressor station.

4. Efficiency Yields More Jobs than Utah's 1 Percent of US Oil

Some argue that Utah's wilderness values are trumped by our need for more oil and gas. But Utah has only 2.5 percent of the nation's natural gas and less than 1 percent of oil reserves.

We will get far better results by tapping into America's stores of energy efficiency. Using better insulation in our homes and offices, keeping tires pumped to the proper weight, and shifting to highly efficient plug-in hybrid cars--these are the measures that will not only reduce our reliance on oil and gas, but also create far more jobs in America than the fossil fuel industry can (see this UMass study).

The NRDC and other environmental groups are fighting this, of course, and our help is needed. Please click here to send a message to the Bureau of Land Management, along with the Obama transition team, and, if you're USian, your Senators and Congresspeople.

Whether you're Canadian, USian or from anywhere else, this land-grab should matter to you. Perhaps it's inevitable that every majestic landscape on the planet, every wilderness area, every canyon and glacier and mountain, will one day be stripped for its fossil-fuel profit potential. But we have a duty to fight to slow or stop that destruction every step of the way.

Please send a mesasge of protest today.


James said...

Sometimes I just want to take the whole Bush administration and banish them to one of the slag heaps their friends in the mining industry have covered the land with, and make them try to eek out a living from the land. Let them eat dust and drink silt.

L-girl said...

I know just how you feel. Let's some to Iraq, too. To live as Iraqis.

Lisa said...


Democracy Now had this headline on December 9: Bush, Rove Tied to Effort to Dismantle Sweden’s Social Welfare Program.

Honestly, what is WRONG with these people?? I am just...I just...it's..unfathomable.

Double arggh!

L-girl said...

Yes. It is.

deang said...

If you've been through areas with lots of oil wells and oil refineries, you know that it isn't just the noise and physical destruction that are problems. There's also often a horrible smell. To me, it smells sulfurous.

And as someone who comes from a very right-wing US family, I can just see the smug, amused looks on the faces of the Bush administration as the phrase "Slam dunk!" runs through their heads.

I'd like worse for them than sending them to live on slag heaps or to live as Iraqis do. I'm normally against the death penalty, but for these guys, I'm open to it.

impudent strumpet said...

Bush, Rove Tied to Effort to Dismantle Sweden’s Social Welfare Program.

WTF? That's just...WTF???

L-girl said...

And as someone who comes from a very right-wing US family, I can just see the smug, amused looks on the faces of the Bush administration

When there was a right-wing branch to my family (thankfully gone, thanks to my sister's brilliant divorce) I was very familiar with this smug, amused look. Woe be to us all if I had a few glasses of wine when I saw it. Grrrrr.

James said...

I was very familiar with this smug, amused look.

I've always been bemused at how people who claim to be true and devout followers of Jesus can be so prideful, greedy, wrathful, etc...

L-girl said...

I've always been bemused at how people who claim to be true and devout followers of Jesus can be so prideful, greedy, wrathful, etc...

Lucky for all of us these people never claimed to be devout and didn't care much about Jesus. They were right-wingnuts, but not of the religious variety. It was bad enough without that, let me tell you!