BLM Withdraws Leases for Extraction From Moab Slickrock Area

The BLM has withdrawn two parcels of land in the Sand Flats Recreation Area which would have made them available for energy extraction and could have threatened the Slickrock bike trail.
Photo: Greg Heil

The Bureau of Land Management has withdrawn the potential oil and gas leases from the Sand Flats recreation area in Moab, Utah. News came out one month ago that two parcels of land in the Sand Flats recreation area, home to the famed Slickrock trail, would be up for lease for potential energy extraction.

The announcement caused an uproar from passionate recreationists and it seems that officials have heard the concerns.

“We understand that the public has concerns about two of the parcels that were considered during the internal review period,” Nicollee Gaddis-Wyatt, Moab field manager said in a press release. “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.”

Earlier this week, the mayor of Moab, Emily Niehaus, along with the Chair of Grand County Council and local business owners had a press call with the Trump administration to urge them to withdraw the leases on the Slickrock trail, and to discuss the economic power of the recreation-based economy in Moab. Over 80 companies from 20 states also sent a collaborated letter to the Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt to urge them to reconsider.

“There are so many parcels in Grand County that have been leased for oil and gas that have not yet been developed,” said Mayor Niehaus of the phone call on February 18. “My request today is actually one for our Governor Gary Herbert, that he will repeat the action that he took in Toquerville, and in Springdale and Washington County, and that he will support Moab City in the removal of parcels 11 and 12, protecting Moab’s precious drinking water and these two parcels, prioritizing the recreation economy over resource development.”

Ashley Korenblat, the CEO of Western Spirit Cycling added her thoughts on the leasing.

“The basic problem is that there is no burden to prove the economic viability of a well pad in the nominating process,” she said. “I can tell you as an outfitter, I have to do more to prove the viability of my business to get a permit to take bike trips on public lands than they [the Department of the Interior] have to do to prove the viability of the well pad.”

The withdrawal of the leases in the Sand Flats area is a big win for public lands advocates, considering the current political climate and the direction that President Trump has pushed the BLM, which has been favoring energy extraction opportunities over recreation or the significance of certain lands.

“We are committed to supporting recreation and protecting natural resources in the Moab Field Office and to listening to our neighbors and representatives in the local communities,” said Field Manager, Gaddis-Wyatt in a press release. “We have successfully managed the Sand Flats Special Recreation Management Area with Grand County since 1994 and we value that enduring relationship. We are also proud to manage a mountain biking trail system that is internationally renowned and enjoyed by many.”