The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will host an open house on Wednesday, May 14, to provide information on the Moab Master Leasing Plan (MLP) process and to present a selection of maps depicting the preliminary range of alternatives for oil, gas and potash development for at least the next 15 years.

The BLM Utah Canyon Country District, which comprises the Moab and Monticello field offices, is developing a range of alternatives based on issues identified during its scoping process where a variety of resource concerns or needs overlap in the same area.

The planning area, which includes approximately 900,000 acres in Grand and San Juan counties, surrounds Arches National Park, abuts Castle Valley, and wraps the eastern and northern borders of Canyonlands National Park.

“We’re proactively going out to the public because we really want to have feedback about whether the public feels we’ve captured a reasonable range of alternatives,” said Beth Ransel, the Moab BLM field office manager. “It’s not a required step in the process, but we thinks it’s a valuable and important process to go through before we move forward with impact analysis.”

The BLM will use this feedback in finalizing the alternatives for development of the Draft Master Leasing Plan and Environmental Impact Statement, scheduled for release in the fall, with a formal public comment period to follow.

The Master Leasing Plan being developed will create amendments to the Moab and Monticello BLM Resource Management Plans (RMP) completed in 2008.

“We did our RMP revision in 2008, so we ended up undertaking [the MLP] as a stand-alone process,” Ransel said.

Unlike a full RMP revision, the MLP process focuses only on oil, gas and potash leasing.

“We ended up including potash because of the amount of interest in the area,” Ransel said.

With oil and gas leasing reforms introduced in 2010, a MLP is now required for areas that are currently not leased, but have a moderate-to-high potential for oil and gas, as well as multi-use, resource or impact conflicts.

Oil and gas leases in the planning area have been deferred since at least 2012. But according to a 2012 BLM press release, “interest in oil, gas and potash exploration and development is high in the area, as evidenced by the recent submission of over 170 potash-prospecting permit applications encompassing over 350,000 acres and expressions of interest to lease oil and gas encompassing over 120,000 acres within the planning area.”

The planning area encompasses some of the same areas addressed by the Grand County public-lands subcommittee. The subcommittee recently designed the first draft of land-designation alternatives for consideration to send to Congressman Rob Bishop for inclusion in his Public Lands Initiative.

The subcommittee’s map alternative No. 2 states that the future of mineral leasing in what would be a national recreation area is “to be determined in [the] current BLM Master Leasing Plan process.”

The BLM planning process includes participation from cooperating agencies “and both Grand and San Juan counties are cooperating agencies with us on the MLP process,” Ransel said.

“The Master Leasing Plan is going to be our best tool for managing resource extraction and protecting recreation assets in the near term—without an act of Congress,” said Ashley Korenblat, co-owner of Western Spirit Cycling and managing director Public Land Solutions.

Public Land Solutions, a non-profit organization involved in recreation planning and public-lands stakeholder coordination, organized Moab Master Leasing Plan Stakeholder Mapping Workshops in February and March.

“If we’re going to have both recreation and development industries, we need to be really clear about what goes where,” Korenblat said. “We got everybody together and said let’s go over this acre-by-acre.”

Participants in the workshops included representatives from American Potash, Fidelity Exploration & Production Company, Red Rock Four Wheelers, Canyonlands Watershed Council, Trail Mix and Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, among others. County Council members, as well as BLM representatives, attended the workshops as observers.

“We did receive a report from that stakeholder group that was meeting and it included some very helpful information,” Ransel said. “It came a little bit late for the preliminary range of alternatives that we’ll be presenting at the open house meetings. We’re going to give consideration to it as part of the feedback we’re going to be receiving on this range of alternatives.”

The MLP process specifically includes opportunities for greater public participation and a more thorough environmental review process and documentation than the RMP. The intention is to help reduce the number of protests filed, and enhance the BLM’s ability to resolve protests prior to lease sales.

“Instead of the BLM investing vast amounts of staff time and attention to defending lawsuits and revisiting the leasing process after receiving direction from the courts, our goal is to undertake important reviews in advance,” BLM then-director Bob Abbey said in 2010.

The Department of the Interior (DOI) launched oil and gas leasing reforms in 2010, largely in response to a controversial 2008 oil and gas lease sale in which environmental activist Tim DeChristopher bid $1.8 million for 14 parcels of land north of Canyonlands National Park during a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oil and gas lease sale.

“The previous Administration’s ‘anywhere, anyhow’ policy on oil and gas development ran afoul of communities, carved up the landscape, and fueled costly conflicts that created uncertainty for investors and industry,” Former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said at the time.

Residents invited to give feedback on future leasing of public lands in Grand and San Juan counties

“We did our RMP revision in 2008, so we ended up undertaking [the MLP] as a stand-alone process,” Ransel said. Unlike a full RMP revision, the MLP process focuses only on oil, gas and potash leasing. “We ended up including potash because of the amount of interest in the area.”

When: Wednesday, May 14, 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Where: the Grand Center, 182 N. 500 West

The alternative development maps will be available online at