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UPDATE: Utah National Monuments Under Siege From Fracking

UPDATE: In an crazy turn of events, even Utah’s Governor, Gary Herbert, has called on Zinke’s Bureau of Land Management to rethink plans to auction off public lands for fracking next to Dinosaur National Monument. While the Utah Governor is normally a strong opponent to any restrictions on the oil and gas industry, even these latest fracking plans appear too much for him to stomach.

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Drilling rig at the foot of Utah’s Uinta Mountains and Dinosaur National Monument.

Two of Utah’s iconic National Monuments are in the crosshairs as President Trump and his Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, continue their assault on our public lands and our climate.

The latest are plans by Zinke’s Bureau of Land Management to auction off more than 150,000 acres of lands for fracking (that’s more than 230 square miles), including lands directly adjacent to Dinosaur and Bears Ears National Monuments.

In December, the Bureau of Land Management is planning to auction off more than 98,000 acres of public lands, many of which are located at the foot of the Uinta Mountains in northeastern Utah next to Dinosaur National Monument.

To boot, in March of 2018, the agency is also considering auctioning more than 57,000 acres of public lands in southern Utah, many of which are just outside the Bears Ears National Monument.

screenshot Bears Ears and oil and gasDespite Zinke’s claimed “love” for public lands, his actions are exposing his true agenda:  to hand over as much of our American West to oil and gas companies, regardless of the costs to sacred landscapes. It’s no wonder that oil and gas industry lobbyists are “delighted.”

The move comes as our National Monuments are broadly under attack by President Trump, who described these treasured lands as “abuses” and directed Secretary Zinke to consider dismantling more than two dozen Monuments. Zinke has responded by taking aim at the Bears Ears National Monument, proposing to diminish if not eliminate the Monument.

To say these lands are remarkable is an understatement. There’s simply no comparison. Dinosaur National Monument is one of the best places for stargazing in the U.S., is home to 500 million-year-old dinosaur fossils, petroglyphs, and pictographs, and of course is renowned for its whitewater rafting.

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A view of the Milky Way from Dinosaur National Monument. Photo by National Park Service/Jacob W. Frank.

The 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument is a cultural wonder and has long been a cherished landscape.  The Monument is full of Ancestral Puebloan ruins, slickrock canyons, and boasts stunning redrock country that is the signature of southern Utah.

Coupled with the climate costs of more fracking and more carbon pollution, these plans to auction away public lands to the oil and gas industry are an absolute nightmare. There is no question that this is exactly why we need to keep our fossil fuels in the ground.

That’s why WildEarth Guardians is stepping up to thwart the Zinke and his Bureau of Land Management. On Monday, we submitted extensive comments calling on the Bureau of Land Management to abandon plans to sell public lands near Dinosaur National Monument this December. And just today, we similarly called on the agency to cancel plans to sell public lands near Bears Ears National Monument next March.

You can also weigh in and help turn the tide for our National Monuments. If you haven’t yet, send a letter to the Bureau of Land Management and stand up for Bears Ears National Monument and our climate! Now, more than ever, we need to weigh in and make our voices heard.

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Cedar Mesa Citadel Ruins, Bears Ears National Monument. Photo by BLM/Bob Wick.

Because the sad thing about these giveaways to the oil and gas industry is that the industry has absolutely no need for these lands.

While Ryan Zinke has been complaining about the need to streamline oil and gas permitting, the agency’s own data directly contradict this sob story. Only 36% of the lands leased in Utah are actually producing, and more than 2,124 drilling permits are sitting idle.

On top of this, by moving forward with these proposals, Trump and Zinke are completely ignoring what the public wants — protection for National Monuments. Unfortunately, that’s no surprise given their ties to the oil and gas industry.

We’ll continue fighting tooth and nail to keep fossil fuels in the ground and protect our public lands, including the amazing National Monuments that make the American West the awe-inspiring landscape that it is.

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