Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) filed a formal protest late last week with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) objecting to the oil and gas lease sales proposed for the BLM quarterly auction on November 24.

Thirteen of the parcels offered for sale are wholly or partially contained within BLM Wilderness Inventory Areas (WIA) left exposed by the Leavitt-Norton settlement. The BLM has deemed all thirteen parcels to have significant wilderness values and the parcels contain some of Utah's treasured recreation gems, including Coal, Desolation and Horseshoe Canyons. This will be the first time that WIA lands will be offered at auction.

“Opening these parcels of land to oil and gas drilling could permanently alter the Utah landscape,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, President of OIA. “These leases could have significant long range impacts on Utah's recreation and tourism economy.”

OIA says it “opposes and would ask the BLM to defer any proposed oil and gas leases on former WIA acreage” until the recreational values and benefits of these lands can be thoroughly researched and reviewed. The letter lists all 13 of the parcels and describes specific recreation opportunities that would be jeopardized by the oil and gas leases.

“We understand that oil and gas play an important role in Utah's economy,” said Hugelmeyer. “However, there must be a balance between the long term benefits of Utah's growing recreation economy and shorter term benefits of other public land uses.”

During his last days in office, Governor Leavitt filed a letter protesting 15 proposed natural gas wells within the White River Inventory because the lands were prime recreation areas. He also created an Outdoor Recreation Economic Task Force to identify and protect key recreation assets across the state.

“Leavitt made it clear the state of Utah should work to protect land that is crucial to the state's recreation economy,” said Hugelmeyer. “We are asking for the BLM to reconsider opening these parcels and jeopardizing Utah's recreation lands before it's too late.”