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/* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} Local residents view maps of four alternative plans for the Moab Master Leasing Plan (MLP) at an open house at Bureau of Land Management offices on Wednesday, May 14. The BLM will be accepting comments about the alternatives until Wednesday, May 28. [Photo by Lindsey Bartosh / Moab Sun News]

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Utah Canyon Country District Office hosted approximately 100 people at an open house on Wednesday, May 14 to provide information about the Moab Master Leasing Plan (MLP) and to take public comments.

In 2011, the BLM Washington Office released Instruction Memorandum (IM) No. 2010-117. The IM established a “process for ensuring orderly, effective, timely and environmentally responsible leasing of oil and gas resources on Federal lands.”

“(The IM) set out bureau policy that the BLM would undertake these master leasing plan efforts. Within the state of Utah, we identified areas that met the criteria outlined in the policy, and from that, we identified the boundary for this area because it met the criteria,” said Beth Ransel, BLM Moab Field Office manager.“This Moab MLP is the only stand-alone MLP plan being undertaken in the BLM. It is the first one of this kind so there is a lot of interest in it.”

The Moab MLP will provide a framework for future oil, gas, and potash leasing on federal lands in southeastern Utah. The plan will recognize valid existing rights. The process also includes possible amendments to the Moab and Monticello Resources Management Plans (RMP) and an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

“In Moab, we also had a need to evaluate potash leasing, so we added that one in,” Ransel said. “The other areas will probably focus on just oil and gas.”

The Moab MLP covers approximately 783,000 acres of public land in Grand and San Juan counties. The area, which starts just south of Interstate 70, wraps around Arches National Park and Moab. The western boundary is the Green River and Canyonlands National Park. The area ends at the south tip of Canyonlands National Park and extends to the eastern boundary, which is U.S. Highway 191.

The BLM Open House, which took place at the Grand Center, allowed the public to view possible plans for gas, oil and potash leasing in the identified area. The BLM provided large maps laying out each of the alternatives, staff members to answer questions, and comment forms.

Mary McGann said also said she attended the open house to learn more about the land use in Grand County.

“I decided to attend because I very much want to educate myself on land use in Grand County,” she said. “I found the open house informative and interesting. I learned a lot about the mining of potash and why the drilling thus far in Grand County does not require fracking.”

Joan Gough said she attended because she would like to see more area restrictions put in place.

“I would like to see some restrictions on oil and gas drilling and exploration, especially those things that are polluting the air and using all of our water,” she said.

The BLM started working on creating their MLP for the area in March of 2012, when it published its Notice of Intent with the Federal Register. Public scoping meetings took place and the four plans, which were presented at the open house, were created. Hosting a public-comment period before a draft and EIS have been released is not a traditional step in the process, Ransel said.

“The BLM proactively decided to take this extra step … in order to interact with the public early and get their feedback on if they believe we have a reasonable range of alternatives before we undertake impacts analysis,” she said. “Usually, we would release a draft and EIS, but by that point we are already really far down the road. We wanted to do this check in and interact with public and see if they feel we’ve missed anything or haven’t adequately weighted everything.”

The four plans were created from scoping meetings and workshops.

“During our scoping meetings, we identified issues and gathered information from the public and our cooperating agencies,” Ransel said. “We have a number of cooperating agencies: Grand County, San Juan County, the State of Utah, Division of Wildlife Resources, National Park Service. And we also worked internally with our resource specialist, who gathered information and data.”

With the four alternatives plans presented, Alternative A is a no-action plan, which means the plan would follow the current management of the area already in place. Alternatives B1 and B2 are slight variations of each other. There is also Alternative C. Each alternative shows a different map for oil and gas leasing and potash leasing.

Attendee Diane Allen said the BLM did provide a number of alternatives for the open house.

“It does seem like there is some variety,” she said. “I don’t know if it is the whole range of possible alternatives.”

Gough said she thought the BLM had released some good alternatives.

“I think there are some real alternatives here today,” she said. “Unlike the Bishop Land Proposal, these look like thoughtful, real alternatives.”

Curtis Wells commented that the plans all were very restrictive in regards to potash leasing.

“Aside from the first alternative, being no action, it seems that every alternative aside from the first is pretty hostile toward potash development,” he said.

County Council chairman Lynn Jackson attended the open house as a representative for the council. He said the open house went well, but that he thinks the BLM still has work to do with its MLP proposal.

“I think the open house went as open houses go – information was presented and questions addressed,” he said. “I thought the alternatives were a bit weak and need more work, but that was the purpose of the open house.”

The BLM will be accepting comments and feedback about the preliminary alternatives from the public until Wednesday, May 28. Comment forms can be found at the BLM’s website and can be emailed, mailed, or dropped off at the BLM office, 82 E. Dogwood Ave.The BLM anticipates releasing a draft for the MLP/EIS in the fall of 2014. A formal 90-day public-comment period will follow the release along with public meetings.

Ransel said she was pleased with the public turnout for the open house.

“It is really heartening that all these folks are interested in what is happening on the BLM managed public lands,” she said. “I am very pleased with the turnout and happy to see some many individuals coming out and interested in what we are doing.”

Master Leasing Plan will likely determine future of mineral development in southeastern Utah

I thought the alternatives were a bit weak and need more work, but that was the purpose of the open house.”

The alternatives can be viewed online at:

The BLM will be accepting comments about the alternatives until Wednesday, May 28.