Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 11, 2018

Contacts:  Carly Ferro, Sierra Club, (801) 467-9294,  
Ryan Beam, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 853-9929,
Steve Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, (801) 428-3981,

Trump Administration Auctions Off 200,000 Acres of Public Lands in Utah for Fossil Fuel Development Near Recreational Areas

SALT LAKE CITY― The Trump administration today offered up more than 200,000 acres of public lands for fossil fuel development in some of Utah’s most picturesque landscapes, including on the doorstep of Canyonlands National Park and along the Green River.

Today’s lease sale drew protest from dozens of Utahns, who gathered in front of the Bureau of Land Management office in Salt Lake City to oppose the sale. The online auction included nearly 159,000 acres in the heart of Utah’s San Rafael Desert and northern Dirty Devil regions, as well as areas near Canyonlands.

“Selling parcels adjacent to our beloved parks and monuments is appalling, yet has been business as usual here in Utah. Our national parks remain plagued with poor air quality and auctioning lands for dirty fuel development at their doorsteps only stands to worsen users’ experiences2-1 and threaten environmental health,” said Ashley Soltysiak, director of the Utah Sierra Club. “What’s new to the BLM is that this can now be done with little regard for public input, despite the fact that public land is being leased. The new oil and gas lease process dramatically reduces opportunities for public comment and shrinks the period for public protest to less than two weeks. Opportunities for citizen engagement had already been lacking, with public outcry long overdue.”

Fracking in these regions threatens endangered or sensitive species, including the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, greater sage grouse, white-tailed prairie dog, kit fox and burrowing owl. It also would use tremendous amounts of water as drought conditions continue throughout the Southwest.

“The Trump administration is turning Utah into a sacrifice zone to reward fossil fuel companies,” said Ryan Beam, a public lands campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These policies are wreaking havoc on our treasured landscapes, the plants and animals that call them home, the health of our communities and our climate. This is a dangerous, irresponsible use of our public lands.”

This lease sale is part of a larger agenda by Trump and Zinke to ramp up fossil fuel extraction on public lands, threatening wildlife, public health and the climate. Zinke has also rewritten policies to shorten public-comment periods and avoid substantive environmental reviews.

“This is a textbook example of what Trump’s ‘energy dominance’ agenda looks like in Utah. It’s a full-on assault against one of our state’s wildest places,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The oil and gas industry has been trying to get its hands on this remote, wild corner of Utah’s red-rock country for years and we’ve fought them off. They’re not going to get it this time either without a fight.”

Fracking destroys public lands and wildlife habitat with networks of fracking wells, compressor stations, pipelines and roads. Injecting toxic wastewater into the ground pollutes rivers and groundwater and causes earthquakes that damage infrastructure and property. Oil industry activities also pollute the air with dangerous toxins linked to human illness and death. Oil and gas production on public land contributes significantly to U.S. greenhouse gas pollution.

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance’s mission is the preservation of the outstanding wilderness at the heart of the Colorado Plateau, and the management of these lands in their natural state for the benefit of all Americans.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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