BLM moves ahead with its first master leasing plan in Utah

The US Bureau of Land Management released its first final master leasing plan for acreage in Utah, covering nearly 785,000 acres of public land in Grand and San Juan counties, nearly a year after it originally was proposed (OGJ Online, Aug. 27, 2015). The plan included a final environmental impact statement and proposed resource management plan amendments, the BLM’s Canyon Country District Office in Moab said.

“Balance is essential,” BLM Director Neil Kornze said. “In this plan, we make sure that southern Utah’s energy resources can be responsibly accessed while also ensuring that Moab’s recreation economy can continue to flourish.”

Diverse recreational activities on BLM-managed land in the Beehive State generated $460 million in local and national economic benefits in 2014, the US Department of the Interior agency separately noted in its July 21 announcement of the final plan. Oil, gas, and coal activity on that same acreage provided $981 million of local and national economic benefits during that same period, it added.

BLM initiated master leasing plans in 2010 as part of a larger onshore federal leasing reform effort in response to numerous legal challenges (OGJ Online, May 18, 2010). The plans are designed to help determine which areas are appropriate for responsible oil and gas activity while protecting recreational, historic, and other values.

They were designed to encourage stakeholder involvement earlier in the planning process to reduce protests and lawsuits while providing developers with greater certainty, the agency said. The plans also provide direction for resolving land use conflicts, it indicated.

BLM said that a 30-day public protest period and 60-day governor’s consistency review would commence on July 22, when the final rule and associated documents were scheduled to be published in the Federal Register.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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