Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Utah Climbing Areas Impacted by Oil and Gas Leases

From the Access Fund Website:

On December 19 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will auction off oil and gas leases near Moab. Once these parcels are leased and put into production, the BLM must build roads capable of accommodating trucks and other large vehicles. Oil and gas rigs will sprout up near many of Moab's most famous climbs, significantly scarring these famous desert landscapes.

Impacted climbing areas include the Big Bend bouldering area, Big Bend Butte, Dolomite Spire, Lighthouse Tower along the River Road, Echo Pinnacle, Merrimac and Monitor Buttes in Courthouse Pasture, and the Witch and Warlock Towers in Hell Roaring Canyon. These desert towers host many classic climbs such as Infrared, Dolofright, Iron Maiden, Poseidon Adventure, and The Window Route.

The Access Fund understands the need for domestic energy production, but believes Moab is well served by protecting its world-class recreational assets, which pump over $260 million annually into the local economy. We believe that a balance can be struck between the need for energy production and the benefits of recreation and tourism by urging the BLM to defer several key parcels slated for lease.

Please tell BLM officials-by December 4th-to protect climbing and other low-impact recreation by withdrawing proposed lease parcels near Porcupine Rim, Hell Roaring Canyon, Tusher Canyon and Courthouse Pasture.

Use the following official protest letter to voice your comments. This form must be used for correspondence with the BLM regarding this issue and must be mailed or faxed (it cannot be e-mailed). Due to the high volume of faxes received by the BLM on protest deadline days, we encourage you to send in your comments early.


November ___, 2009 [BLM MUST RECEIVE PROTEST BY DEC. 4, 2008]

Bureau of Land Management
Utah State Office
PO Box 45155
Salt Lake City, UT 84145-0155
FAX 801-539-4237

Re: December 19, 2008 Lease Parcels: 176, 177, 180, 181, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 196, 197, 216, 217, 218, 219, 221, 222, 223, 242, 243 and 244

Pursuant to 43 C.F.R. 3120.1-3, please accept this letter of protest regarding the proposed lease sale of the above noted parcels. I respectfully request that these parcels be withdrawn from the December 19, 2008 sale, for the following reasons:

I am a resident of ____________, ___. I [have been to Moab/am planning to visit Moab/currently live in Moab], and have specific concerns about BLM's December 19, 2008 oil and gas lease sale in Utah. I have reviewed the relevant parts of the recently released Moab Resource Management Plan (RMP). The RMP does not include a discussion or analysis regarding leasing and development of oil and gas in Porcupine Rim and Matt Martin Point, Tusher Canyon/Courthouse Pasture areas, or Mineral Point near Hell Roaring Canyon. The BLM should withdraw these parcels from potential leasing and at minimum conduct site-specific analyses and provide an opportunity for public comment before leasing these areas for oil and gas production.

Moab's Recreation Economy

The recently released Moab RMP includes specific reference to the Colorado Riverway Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA) which includes the Big Bend area and Porcupine Rim Trail. The existence of this SRMA requires that the following parcels be deferred as access roads to these parcels and development infrastructure will violate the Visual Resource Management Objectives set forth in the RMP. The loss of trails (conversion to roads) and the visual impacts to this area would greatly reduce my desire to visit Moab and recreate in the Big Bend and Porcupine Rim areas. Parcel numbers: 216, 217, 218, 219, 221, and 223.

Tusher Canyon and the Mill Canyon/Upper Courthouse Pasture areas are designated Mountain Bike Areas within the BLM's Moab RMP and are closed to motorized travel except on designated routes. Rockclimbing is also a significant and longstanding use of this area. The controlled surface use stipulation for this VRM II area requires that the level of change to the landscape be low. Oil and gas activity in this area will greatly detract from the desirability of these trails and the climbing opportunities in the area. Impacts to this area from oil and gas development would greatly reduce my desire to visit Moab and recreate in the Tusher Canyon and the Mill Canyon/Upper Courthouse areas. Parcel numbers: 180, 181,182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 196, and 197.

The BLM should withdraw specific parcels located on Mineral Point adjacent to Hell Roaring Canyon to preserve the unique visual qualities of that area (parcel numbers 176 and 177), and specific parcels contiguous to Arches National Park requiring industrial access through the park should also be deferred (parcel numbers 217 and 218). Both of these locations are important recreation destinations in the Moab region and industrial activity here will diminish visitation and lessen the benefits of tourism on the local economy.

The BLM acknowledges that the potential for oil and gas production is low for these lease areas, yet the agency also recognizes that tourists attracted to Moab's recreational assets are a major component of the local economy. The BLM should protect Moab's unique recreational opportunities-and future economy-and prevent the permanent scars of access roads and industrial development. The BLM has discretionary authority to approve or disapprove mineral leasing of public lands. I have visited or plan to visit the specific parcels referenced in this protest letter, and request that the above listed parcels be withdrawn from the December 19, 2008, lease sale, and that these parcels not be re-offered in future lease sales.



Cc: The Honorable Governor Jon Huntsman
Utah State Capitol Complex
350 North State Street, Suite 200
PO Box 142220
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-2220

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