The Trump administration is continuing to their ramp-up of offering up public lands to the oil and gas industry for fossil fuel extraction.
The newest offering is 150,000 acres of public lands near several national parks in Utah. The land that will be auctioned off is near Canyonlands and Arches national parks, Bears Ears, Canyons of the Ancients and Hovenweep national monuments, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Some of the included lands are within 10 miles of internationally known protected areas. The land will be used for natural gas extraction, aka fracking.
Citizens of Utah and environmental groups gathered in the Utah State Capitol on Tuesday to protest the decision.
Additionally, representatives and volunteers from the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Center for Biological Diversity participated in a press conference to raise awareness to the danger of leasing land for fracking.
Both protestors and the environmental groups express their concern for the impact of drilling on nearby wildlife. The Sierra Club states:
Despite increasing concerns about climate change and damage to wildlife habitats, about 90 percent of federal public lands in the West are available for oil and gas leasing. Federal oil and gas leasing commits millions of acres of public land to fossil fuel industrialization that pollutes the air and water, destroys habitat for sensitive and endangered wildlife.
“Utahns have demonstrated their commitment to transition away from dirty fossil fuels through clean energy resolutions passed in municipalities across our state. Yet, these commitments continue to be undermined by rampant oil and gas lease sales, which threaten our public health, public lands, and economy. While Utah’s recreational and tourism economies continue to flourish, these attempts to develop sacred cultural, environmental, and recreational spaces for dirty fuels remain a grave and growing threat.” said Ashley Soltysiak, director of the Utah Sierra Club. “Utah is our home and the reckless sale of our public lands with limited public engagement is simply unacceptable and short-sighted.”
Some of the endangered wildlife in the area includes the black-footed ferret, Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, and Graham’s beardtongue.
Pollution is also a concern as is the use of local groundwater when Utah just experienced its driest year in recorded history.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, “This is a reckless fire sale of spectacular public lands for dirty drilling and fracking. These red-rock wonderlands are some of the West’s most iconic landscapes, and we can’t afford to lose a single acre. Fracking here will waste precious water, foul the air and destroy beautiful wild places that should be held in trust for generations to come.”
The Trump administration started offering up public lands almost immediately after Trump was sworn in. Just this year the Bureau of Land Management has offered more than 420,000 acres of public land in Utah for oil and gas extraction. Another 215,000 acres are planned for auction in March.
The process of fracking is seriously damaging to human and wildlife health as well as the environment. Fracking has been linked to respiratory problems, pregnancy complications, noise, stress, and sleep deprivation, and earthquakes, not to mention it contributes to air and water pollution. Despite the fact that the federal government’s own report shows that oil and gas production on public land contributes significantly to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the Trump administration continue to push on expanding its use.