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National parks in UT benefit from BLM rules

Katy - stock.adobe.com

Conservation experts are applauding the Bureau of Land Management for releasing two new rules that recognize conservation as an essential part of public lands management and strengthen accountability for oil and gas operations across the West, including Utah.

Beau Kiklis is the senior program manager of energy and landscape conservation for the National Parks Conservation Association, and said Utah is home to multiple national parks - many of which border BLM lands.

"The fact of the matter is," said Kiklis, "the conditions of the landscape across the state and also throughout the West, are such that the BLM has to shift course and has to respond to these changing conditions as an obligatory matter."

Kiklis said historically there has been a "significant imbalance" in terms of land that has been available for oil and gas leasing around the West.

He added that the new rules also usher in bonding requirements for new federal oil and gas wells for the first time in 60 years, which will prevent further orphan well sites.

In 2021 Utah had almost 1,400 orphan wells throughout the state, according to the NPCA.

The NPCA's Senior Director of Energy and Landscape Conservation, Matthew Kirby, said the new rules are complimentary - they reform the federal leasing program to better align decision making on public lands while considering ecosystems and community health.

He said what happens outside of national park boundaries is critical to national park resources.

"And so these rules allow a landscape level thinking approach to manage across federal jurisdictions," said Kirby. "The National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management can work together to think about what a healthy landscape looks like."

Kirby said the rules target reigning in mineral extraction and will aid in ensuring that leases are not granted on lands near a national park border, which he said took place in Utah under the Trump administration.