The view of Delicate Arch natural bridge — an unspoiled landmark so iconic it's on Utah's license plates — could one day include a drilling platform under a proposal that environmentalists call a Bush administration “fire sale” for the oil and gas industry.
Late on Election Day, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced a Dec. 19 auction of more than 50,000 acres of oil and gas parcels alongside or within view of Arches National Park and two other red-rock national parks in Utah: Dinosaur and Canyonlands.
The National Park Service's top official in the state, Cordell Ray, calls it “shocking and disturbing” and says his agency wasn't properly notified.
Officials of the BLM, which oversees millions of acres of public land in the West, say the sale is nothing unusual, and one is “puzzled” that the Park Service is upset.
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A compromise ordered by the Interior Department requires the BLM to “take quite seriously” the Park Service's objections, said Shane Wolfe, press secretary for Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.
However, the BLM didn't promise to pull any parcels from the sale, and in an interview after the supposed truce, BLM state director Selma Sierra was defiant, saying she saw nothing wrong with drilling near national parks.
“There are already many parcels leased around the parks. It's not like they've never been leased,” she said.
Roy and conservation groups dispute that, saying never before has the bureau bunched drilling parcels on the fence lines of national parks.