Bureau of Land Management officials met with the Grand County Council July 17 to follow-up on a letter sent by council chair Gene Ciarus on June 26.
The letter accused the agency of making decisions regarding the Moab area Master Leasing Plan in a closed meeting with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. The Master Leasing Plan is basically a road map for approved oil, gas, potash and other development on lands administered by the BLM. The letter requested that the BLM pull back on the MLP to allow counties to be more involved in the process.
The council voted to rescind the letter at the July 3 meeting.
Juan Palma, Utah state BLM director, clarified the MLP process.
He said that on May 17, 2010, the Utah office received direction from the Washington D.C. office on oil and gas leasing reform.
“Was the MLP a result of meeting with SUWA? No. I came to Utah in July 2010, long after the instruction came out,” Palma said. “I did not recognize who they (SUWA) were. I didn’t know them in May 2010. The MLP was not created by me and SUWA.”
Ciarus expressed that he felt that Grand County was left out of the MLP process.
“Local government should be involved in the planning. We have not been involved. We’re concerned about what is going on with our MLP,” Ciarus said. “We’ve had a good relationship dealing with trails. But with development or resources, we don’t have a good relationship.”
BLM members and council spoke about how there were regular meetings to discuss the 2008 Resource Management Plan as it was being developed. When it was completed, communication was not as frequent.
“We still have a close relationship with the road department and the trail associations. Why don’t we meet more and keep the communication open?” said BLM Canyon Country District manager Shelley Smith.
Palma admitted that there was failure in communicating with Grand County regarding the MLP.
“That was probably a weakness in the process,” Palma said.
BLM officials and the council resolved to meet regularly to discuss the MLP before the draft is completed next summer.
Palma said that the MLP should speed the process in allowing gas, oil and mineral leases to develop.
“It will be much quicker to go through the process once the MLP is in place,” Palma said. “A diverse economy is a good thing. We’re about trying to find that balance.”