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.
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.
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