Landscapes

Major Win: Obama Administration Scraps Controversial Utah Lease Sales

Posted on: February 5th, 2009 by Jason Clement

 

Interior Secretary Ken Sa

President Barack Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. (Photo: AP)

"I believe, as President Obama does, that we need to responsibly develop our oil and gas supplies to help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but we must do so in a thoughtful and balanced way."

Those are the words of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar given yesterday in a statement that was heard around the preservation world.

In what will likely be the first of many high-profile reversals of the Bush administration's approach to energy exploration, the government is scrapping the issuance of 77 lease parcels on federal land for oil and gas drilling in Utah's red rock country. The announcement is a major win for Nine Mile Canyon and the thousands of Native American rock art images that cover the canyon’s wall.

"In the last weeks in office, the Bush administration rushed ahead to sell oil and gas leases near some of our nation's most precious landscapes in Utah," Salazar said. "We will take time and a fresh look at these 77 parcels to see if they are appropriate for oil and gas development."

Since December 2008, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has been a voice in a coalition of conservation and preservation organizations fighting leases - which are valued at $6 million - on more than 110,000 acres of Utah public land. On January 17, the group received its first major victory in the new year when Judge Ricardo M. Urbina of the U.S. District Court granted a temporary restraining order preventing the Bureau of Land Management from moving forward with the leases.

Nine Mile Canyon contains the nation's greatest density of ancient rock art, which is threatened by clouds of dust and corrosive chemicals created by the heavy industrial truck traffic associated with oil and gas development.

"Secretary Salazar’s decision sends a strong message about the Obama administration’s approach to preserving America’s public lands," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in a press release put out yesterday by the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Today’s action ensures that the damage being inflicted on cultural resources near Utah’s Nine Mile Canyon - often called the ‘world’s longest art gallery’ because of the density of ancient rock art panels there - will not be exacerbated by additional oil and gas leases. This is a great decision, and indicates that Secretary Salazar and President Obama take very seriously their responsibility as stewards of our public lands."

Learn more about the National Trust’s efforts to protect Nine Mile Canyon, and check out the full text of an excellent article in today’s Washington Post.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

A Victory for Nine Mile Canyon’s Rock Art

Posted on: January 23rd, 2009 by Jason Clement

 

Art should be revered, which is why we all know the unspoken rules when it comes to museums.

No loud talking because you should be thinking. Don't get too close because you'll probably get beeped at. No refreshments because Dali wouldn't approve of slurping. And of course, keep your hands to yourself because, well, you know how it goes: you break it, you...

But what about those masterpieces that are found in our nation's backyard rather than in its National Gallery? How do we protect relics from the past that - rather than gum chewing and flash photography - face growing threats from industrial development and the dust-stirring truck traffic that it creates?

Pictured above, Utah's Nine Mile Canyon and the region surrounding it contains the nation's greatest density of ancient rock art, with tens of thousands of prehistoric images already documented and many more yet to be discovered. Unfortunately, due to ongoing oil and gas lease sales, the fate of these irreplaceable cultural resources was largely uncertain in the final months of 2008.

However, with the new year has come a new victory for what is also known as the world's longest art gallery.

On January 17, 2009, Judge Ricardo M. Urbina of the U.S. District Court granted a temporary restraining order that prevents the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from moving forward with leases on more than 110,000 acres of federal land in Utah, including land near Nine Mile Canyon. The decision comes as a result of a lawsuit filed in December 2008 by a coalition of conservation and preservation organizations, which includes the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Wilderness Society, and Earthjustice.

In the ruling, Judge Urbina found that the conservation groups "have shown a likelihood of success on the merits" and that the "'development of domestic energy resources' … is far outweighed by the public interest in avoiding irreparable damage to public lands and the environment." The merits of the case will be heard later in 2009. Until that time, BLM is prohibited from cashing the checks issued for the contested acres of Utah.

As is often the case in preservation, protecting Nine Mile Canyon is an ongoing project. We invite you to stay tuned over the coming months as we continue to be a watchful eye and a strong voice for the region's prehistoric masterpieces. And in the mean time, check out our previous blog posts on Nine Mile Canyon to read more about this story as it developed, and visit PreservationNation for additional resources and information.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

As BLM Lease Sale Looms, Advocates Press to Save Nine Mile Canyon and Other Public Lands from Drilling

Posted on: December 18th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

An example of the Native American rock art in Nine Mile Canyon.

An example of the Native American rock art in Nine Mile Canyon.

Yesterday, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a coalition of environmental groups joined actor Robert Redford and Congressman Brian Baird (D-Wash.) in a press conference organized by environmental, historic preservation and business groups who oppose a controversial oil and gas lease sale set for December 19th. Several parcels included in this sale are on relatively pristine lands near Nine Mile Canyon, which the Bureau of Land Management acknowledges has the highest concentration of Native American rock art in the United States.

Dave Albersworth (The Wilderness Society), Pat Mitchell (Grand Canyon Trust), and Ti Hays (National Trust for Historic Preservation) listen to Robert Redford speak.

Dave Albersworth (The Wilderness Society), Pat Mitchell (Grand Canyon Trust), and Ti Hays (National Trust for Historic Preservation) listen to Robert Redford.

Redford spoke reverently of the Utah wild lands endangered by the proposed leasing and sharply rebuked BLM’s decision to go forward with the sale. He at one point referred to the decision makers with BLM as “morally criminal.” Rep. Baird, who grew up in Fruita, Colorado, just a few miles from the Utah border, also spoke fondly of his time among the canyons for which so many cherish the Utah public lands. He rightly reminded the audience that although the lease sale involves land within the State of Utah, the land is owned and managed by the federal government on behalf of the American people. In light of the national interest in protecting the cultural and natural resources affected by the proposed leases, he called on BLM to cancel the sale.

Also yesterday, the National Trust -- along with many of the groups that held the press conference -- filed a complaint in federal court challenging the lease sale scheduled for December 19th. The complaint claims that, in deciding to sell additional leases near Nine Mile Canyon, BLM has failed to consult and adequately assess effects on historic properties under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The complaint also alleges violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

 

Take action today to protect the "world's longest art gallery" from the December 19 oil and gay lease sale.

Take action today to protect the "world's longest art gallery" from the December 19 oil and gas lease sale.

A lot can happen in a day, and we have exactly eleven of them left to make our case in Nine Mile Canyon.

On December 19, the Utah State Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will hold an oil and gas lease sale for hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Utah, including areas in and near Nine Mile Canyon as well as areas just outside of Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Dinosaur National Monument. If issued as proposed, the lease sale would elevate the already high levels of industrial traffic in the canyon, which creates clouds of dust and corrosive chemicals that then settle on and damage fragile and ancient rock art panels.

While some recent developments have been positive - including the December 2 announcement of eight lease deferrals around Nine Mile Canyon - we aren't there yet, as sixteen art-rich parcels remain in the scope of the proposed sale.

There's still time to make a difference, but we need your voice.

Today, the National Trust for Historic Preservation issued a national action alert to drum up support for additional deferrals. Join us in urging Congress to persuade the Bureau of Land Management to protect irreplaceable panels of rock art by removing the remaining gas and oil leases in and around Nine Mile Canyon. Using our online letter form, you can get involved in a matter of minutes.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

Breaking News: BLM Announces Lease Deferrals in Nine Mile Canyon

Posted on: December 4th, 2008 by Jason Clement 1 Comment

 

Left in the dust? Industrial truck traffic caused by lease sales threatens rock art in Nine Mile Canyon.

Left in the dust? Industrial truck traffic caused by lease sales threatens rock art in Nine Mile Canyon.

Plans change, and yesterday they started to change in our favor.

In a blog post on November 7, 2008, we reported that the Bureau of Land Management was reviving plans to sell oil and gas leases in wilderness areas in eastern Utah before the end of the year - a project that could include tens of thousands of acres in and around Nine Mile Canyon. As many of you know, Nine Mile Canyon is an unparalleled cultural resource with over 10,000 rock art images on more than 1,000 panels. Projects like these threaten the canyon's irreplaceable resources due to the ever increasing dust, chemical suppressants and vehicle emissions associated with industrial truck traffic.

Despite the fact that the December 19 target date for the lease sale is inching closer and closer, an important announcement yesterday demonstrates that it is not too late to take a step in the right direction.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation both commends the Bureau of Land Management for deferring eight of the approximately twenty leases planned for sale in and near Nine Mile Canyon, and urges the agency to continue to make decisions that protect the at-risk resources. The deadline for objections to the lease sale is today, and, as noted in a Salt Lake Tribune article that ran yesterday, the National Trust for Historic Preservation will be filing an official protest (which will be available online soon) arguing for deferrals for the sensitive tracts below the canyon's rim that remain on the lease list.

The lease list will be finalized by December 12. As we continue to monitor this sale and report on critical changes, we invite you to visit our Nine Mile Canyon page to learn more about our work in the resource-rich region and to download a lease sale map released yesterday by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.