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SALT LAKE CITY — Industry-nominated federal land for potential oil and gas development in southeastern Utah is stoking a roar of criticism among environmental groups that say the acreage should be off-limits.
The Bureau of Land Management is proposing a March lease sale of minerals on 51,400 acres, including land near the San Juan River, Hovenweep National Monument and areas that include more than 1,000 documented archaeological resources.
Erika Pollard, Utah senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, said the organization has concerns about impacts to Hovenweep and other parks.
"NPCA remains concerned that the (analysis) doesn't protect for night skies, natural sound, clean air and cultural resources in and around our national parks," she said.
Pollard said many parcels were deferred two years ago by the federal agency and the concerns persist.
"It is irresponsible to go forward with leasing these parcels when, to date, little has been done to address these real problems that were raised originally and that could spoil our southeastern Utah national parks and the larger cultural landscape," she said.
An environmental analysis details the sensitive "viewsheds" potentially impacted by industry activity, including seven parcels in Recapture Canyon, one near the San Juan River and two near Hovenweep.
Eight percent of one of the Hovenweep parcels would be visible to a casual observer recreating in the area from collective vantage points, according to the analysis, while 10 percent of the other parcel would be noticed from those areas, including the entrance of Hovenweep National Monument.
The BLM said industry would have to use strategic siting and color camouflaging to mitigate impacts.
Overall, the analysis said the leases under consideration in Grand and San Juan counties would be subject to 150 acres of surface disturbance, or 0.32 percent out of 46,450 acres. It notes that there are 1,346 recorded cultural sites within the parcels, including Recapture Canyon, Mustang Mesa and Alkali Ride. The acreage is part of the 1.8 million acres administered by the BLM through its Monticello field office.
Michael Saul, with the Center for Biological Diversity, said the proposal risks natural and cultural treasures in the area near the newly created Bears Ears National Monument.
The analysis, which the BLM released Friday, is up for public comment until Oct. 23. Comments may be emailed to BLM_UT_MB_Comments@BLM.gov or mailed to the BLM's Moab Field Office, 82 E. Dogwood, Moab, UT, 84532.