BLM approves master leasing plan for southeastern Utah

The US Bureau of Land Management approved its first master leasing plan for Utah, encompassing 785,000 acres of public land managed by its Moab and Monticello field offices. It will guide responsible oil, gas, and mineral development in southeastern Utah while protecting important natural resources, iconic scenery, and recreational opportunities, the US Department of the Interior agency said.

BLM brought together a diverse set of stakeholders, including local community members, industry representatives, recreation enthusiasts, tribes, and other interested parties, to develop the Moab Master Leasing Plan/Approved Resource Management Plan Amendments, it said.

The agency also worked closely with state and local agencies as well at the National Park Service and the US Environmental Protection Agency, it said. More than 28,000 public comments were received and considered during the final plan’s development.

BLM said its approved plan focuses protection on areas with high scenic quality, high-use recreation areas, and other areas with sensitive resources, while keeping energy exploration and development in areas with fewer resource conflicts. It said key elements included:

• Prioritizing new leasing of oil, gas, and potash in different parts of the planning area to reduce conflicts from overlapping development and allow for orderly development.

• Phasing potash leasing to test whether development is feasible.

• Reducing wellsite density to minimize surface disturbance in sensitive areas.

• Protecting National Park scenic qualities by strategically closing 145,000 acres of BLM-administered lands to mineral leasing.

• Allowing energy development while providing additional surface protection to about 306,000 acres that are highly valued for scenery and recreation, through the use of No Surface Occupancy stipulations on future leases.

• Using a comprehensive list of the most current and best management practices to reduce, prevent, or avoid adverse environmental or social impacts.

• Providing additional protections for the Old Spanish National Historic Trail.

BLM launched the MLP concept in May 2010 to address a federal onshore oil, gas, and minerals leasing system in which nearly half of all proposed parcels received community protests, and a substantial number resulted in litigation. It initially developed plans in Colorado and Wyoming before bringing the concept to Utah (OGJ Online, Aug. 27, 2015).

In conjunction with making the Moab MLP final, BLM also released the preliminary alternatives for the San Rafael Desert MLP, which was initiated earlier this year and will involve about 525,000 acres in Utah’s Emery and Wayne counties. Comments will be accepted through Jan. 20, 2017, the agency said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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