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Critics Say Better Coordination Needed For Drilling Outside Parks, Monuments

Edward Snow
Conservation advocates, elected officials and locals fear that parcels offered for lease outside national parks and monuments are harming the visitor experience and local economies. Island Park at Dinosaur National Monument is shown here.

Conservation groups are asking federal land managers to avoid proposing oil and gas leases that undermine the appeal of nearby national parks and monuments.

They joined locals and even Utah’s Republican governor recently in complaining about proposed leases near Zion National Park. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management eventually put those parcels on hold earlier this month.

Now conservationists hope new parcels outside Dinosaur National Monument will also be deferred. They say visitors and local recreation economies should be protected from energy development even beyond park and monument boundaries.

“As the administration puts more emphasis on leasing for oil and gas, national parks are at risk of being injured,” says Nick Lund of the National Parks Conservation Association.

Conservation and business groups say more public discussion upfront would solve the problem.

But energy companies want it to be easier to develop oil and gas on public lands. And, in March, the Trump administration ordered federal agencies to streamline energy development.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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