The U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s long-awaited draft Master Leasing Plan proposal for the greater Moab area is now available for public review.
The agency will officially publish the draft plan in the Federal Register on Friday, Aug. 21, kicking off a 90-day public comment period.
The draft plan is designed to serve as a roadmap that facilitates balanced and orderly leasing and development of energy resources on public lands in southern Grand and northern San Juan counties, while protecting important conservation areas that support outdoor recreation opportunities for local communities and visitors.
It analyzes oil, gas and potash development on 946,469 acres of land within the agency’s Canyon Country District, including 785,567 acres of BLM-administered land, and 160,902 acres of state, private and split estate land. Major land uses in the planning area include private and commercial recreation activities, oil and gas production, mining and livestock grazing. Recreational uses of these BLM lands draw 2 million visitors a year and support hundreds of local jobs and the bulk of the local business community. Some of the area also holds significance for Native American tribes of the region.
According to the BLM, the reforms were designed to encourage stakeholder input early in the planning process, which reduces protests and litigation and provides developers with greater certainty.
BLM and U.S. Interior Department officials said in a statement that they believe the proposed Moab MLP exemplifies the “thoughtful planning and intensive analysis” that can be achieved through a robust and collaborative process.
“The BLM is proud of the work we do to facilitate robust and responsible energy development on public lands,” BLM Director Neil Kornze said in a statement. “We have a basic responsibility to work with local stakeholders to ensure that conflicts related to natural and cultural resources are dealt with up front.”
“Moab has some of the most iconic scenery on the Colorado Plateau, but it is also rich with energy resources, so we need to take a landscape-level approach to minimize potential resource conflicts,” U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said. “As the first Master Leasing Plan in Utah, this collaborative planning process should serve as a model for how communities can work together to balance development with protecting world-class environmental, cultural and recreational resources.”
In crafting the Moab plan, the BLM says it brought a diverse set of stakeholders together, including local community members, industry representatives, recreationists, tribes and other interested parties from across the country. It also worked closely with the National Park Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other state and local agencies in the planning process, while soliciting public feedback on preliminary alternatives and held public meetings.
The BLM previously finalized the North Park, Colorado, Master Leasing Plan on July 8, 2015, while the Beaver Rim, Wyoming, Master Leasing Plan was completed on June 26, 2014. The agency also published a Notice of Intent on June 1, 2015, to prepare a plan for South Park, Colorado.
The BLM also announced that it would initiate the 524,854-acre San Rafael Desert Master Leasing Plan and the 320,000-acre Cisco Desert plan in the fall of 2015. In all, the BLM has completed, or begun work on, nearly a dozen MLP areas in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah.
Proposal aims to balance development with conservation, recreation
To read the draft plan for the Moab area, go to www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/moab/MLP/deis.html. For local reactions to the proposal, please see next week’s edition of the Moab Sun News.