Utah Congressman Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Public Lands and Environmental subcommittee, and Congressman Jason Chaffetz, have issued responses to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's announcement that it will defer an additional 99,960 acres of land in the southern part of the state from quarterly oil and gas lease sales.
The latest deferent brings the total number of acres withdrawn from the lease sales to 800,000.
BLM's Price and Vernal Utah field offices will instead offer only 44,000 acres for oil and gas leases, just 5% of what could have been offered, the lawmakers complain.
"It's silly of the BLM to think that it can pass this arbitrary decision off as anything other than what it is, which is an appeasement to special interest groups that are opposed to all resource development in this area," says Bishop.
"Their motives are thinly veiled. It is no coincidence that the areas withdrawn from the lease sales are located within the boundaries of a proposal introduced by New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt that seeks to lock up more than 9 million acres as new wilderness.
"The irony of the situation is that the deferred lease areas are within, or adjacent to, existing federal and state oil and gas leases, which currently coexist in harmony with outdoor recreation."
By "succumbing to the fear-mongering from special interest groups," Bishop says the BLM is further demonstrating the need for locally-driven solutions that support balanced use of public lands.
"Revenue from recreation is important to the state of Utah and helps support some communities," he adds, "but it alone won't pay the bills."
A balanced land use portfolio would do so, he says, which includes resource development and conservation for recreation.
Both energy development and recreation development can be successful, says Chaffetz , adding that rural Utah "desperately needs more high-paying jobs that the energy industry provides."