Even more bad news for national park lovers. The Interior Department has announced that they will be leasing over 30 parcels of public land national monuments, such as Bears Ears, for oil and gas prospecting and exploration.
The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) sale includes over 51,000 acres of land in Utah such as the Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients monuments.
This isn’t the first time this administration has prioritized fossil fuels over land conservation. Last year, other protected national monuments—including Bears Ears—were trimmed for similar reasons.
Conservation groups say the leases are contrary to federal laws and regulations, as oil and gas development will lead to the destruction of culturally and environmentally rich areas. Researchers recently discovered what may be one of the world’s richest caches of Triassic period fossils at an extensive site within Bears Ears’ original boundaries.
“We won’t sit idly by while President Trump and Interior Secretary Zinke auction off America’s cultural and public lands heritage to the oil and gas industry,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA). “This lease sale flies in the face of historic preservation and environmental laws that Congress put in place to make sure that BLM thinks before it acts; not ‘lease first, and think later.'”
“BLM’s short-sighted decision threatens Utah’s red rock wilderness as well as significant cultural and archaeological resources,” added Landon Newell, staff attorney with SUWA. “BLM’s ‘lease everything, lease everywhere’ approach to oil and gas development needlessly threatens iconic red rock landscapes and irreplaceable cultural history in the ill-conceived push for ‘energy dominance.'”
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