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In an utterly unnoticed announcement on Election Day, Bush's BLM announced it is planning to auction oil and natural gas leases on land adjacent to Arches National Park. This will place drilling rigs, with all their environmental impacts, adjacent to some of the most starkly beautiful lands in the United States.

Wall Street in HDR Pictures, Images and Photos

The BLM didn't even bother informing the National Park Service of the lease auction, let alone the public. The Salt Lake Tribune notes:

The Park Service said getting details about the sales has proved difficult. The agency found out about them only through a tip from a conservation group.

Please pass notice of this last minute land rape by Bush and Cheney's oil undustry on to as many concerned people as you can. More on the other side...

I lived in Utah for 20 years. I've raced my bike through Arches, right past Wall Street, which is pictured above, in the old Moab Stage Race which was once held every year. I spent an unforgettable afternoon running around the labyrinthine Fiery Furnace, communing with the spirits after ingesting the ancient Indians psychedelic of choice--magic mushrooms.

This land is incredible, inspiring--what was once the sand on the bottom of an ancient ocean is now soaring walls and spires of red rock against the giant sky. It was as special to the ancients as it is to us in modern times

Delicate Arch, with a full moon over the LaSalle Mountains in the background:

Arches National Park Pictures, Images and Photos

On Election Day, with everyone's focus on the historic election of President-Elect Barack Obama (I have to type that phrase again, just for the pure joy of it: President-Elect Barack Obama!) the Bush and Cheney-led BLM announced it's Record of Decision and Approved Resource Management Plan for the Moab Field Office, along with the list of parcels for the upcoming December quarterly sale. Included in this sale is nearly 360,000 acres of federal land in Utah, including parcels directly adjacent to Arches National Park. A map of these parcels is below:

Map of proposed leases

The BLM hasn't exactly been forthcoming with this information, not even to their sister agency the National Park Service. In fact, the official list of parcels that the BLM posted did not even include these parcels beside one of our most treasured National Parks! From the Tribune:

On Thursday, the BLM said the list had been available to the Park Service in August. Snyder noted that tally didn't include the disputed parcels.

In an e-mail to The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday afternoon, BLM spokeswoman Megan Crandall acknowledged the oversight. "Even so," she wrote, "such notification is not legally mandated, but a step that enhances communication between federal agencies."...

That release offered no maps or details about the sale for the Park Service or the public to see. Instead, the BLM said it wouldn't offer parcels in wilderness study areas and added that recently completed long-term resource-management plans "provide administrative protection for these natural areas - a few of which are available for leasing under the most stringent restrictions."

After days of wrangling, the BLM said late Friday it would make easier-to-read maps available to the public at its Salt Lake City office.

Are they going to put these maps online, for the voting public to see?

Are they going to allow natural gas drilling to occur and potentially ruin the delicate desert landscape of Arches forever? It's not a clean fuel--rather such drilling has far reaching effects:

The first thing Laura Amos noticed was the drop in her faucet’s water pressure. Then there was the geyser shooting from her well. Laura lives in Garfield County, Colorado, one of the hotbeds of coalbed methane development (CBM). Laura and her husband are outfitters in the Flat Tops Wilderness. Amos told me that she has faced years of frustration over the problem, which began during fracturing operations at the nearby gas well. Those operations create fractures within the sand formations holding the gas, in order to free up more of it to flow up the well. On the day of the fracturing, her well exploded. Then, the water turned gray and fizzed. Amos didn’t know what was going on at first. They took to drinking bottled water but soon, her whole family, including her 18 month old daughter was horribly sick. Then, Amos was diagnosed with a rare adrenal gland tumor. Research suggesting that a chemical sometimes used in fracturing causes such tumors in rats. But nobody really knows.

These are the industrial operations that the Bush-Cheney BLM is quietly pushing for right outside of this land, right between these arches and those mountains:

Arches National Park Pictures, Images and Photos

If you are as enraged as I am at these last minute tactics of the BLM (or what we used to not-so-fondly refer to as the Bureau of Large Mammals) to encourage drilling right beside such a beautiful national park, please rec this diary so it doesn't quickly disappear.

And then take the time to contact your senators and congressmen, and the following BLM officials:
Shelley Smith, Canyon Country District BLM manager, (435) 259-2100
Selma Sierra, BLM Utah State Director, (801) 539-4001

And send a comment to the national office here:
http://www.blm.gov/...

Thanks for the help. Together we can shine some sunlight on the last days of the Bush administration, and let them know we are watching them!

Originally posted to bewert on Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 12:23 PM PST.

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