Drilling Near Dinosaur National Monument Draws Criticism ~ NYT

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Changes loom near remote Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. It’s a rough region of 1,000-foot cliffs and canyons, two wild rivers — the Green and the Yampa — ancient rock art and archaeological evidence of 10,000 years of human history.

The park, which straddles the Utah-Colorado border, affords visitors backcountry camping, white-water rafting and, most famously, spectacular dinosaur fossils. The Bureau of Land Management has announced that in December it will auction gas and oil drilling rights on 94,000 acres, or 146 square miles, of land, some of it near the park’s entrance road.

Pumpjacks, drill rigs and other equipment would be visible from the park’s visitor center, which is 2.5 miles from one lease parcel, according to critics. The B.L.M. has said that equipment would not intrude on the average visitor’s field of view. The agency said it would take steps to minimize visibility, including light shields, noise mufflers and “placement of exhaust systems to direct noise away from noise sensitive areas” and “avoiding unnecessary flaring of gas.”

Ozone pollution from such energy development already exceeds federal Clean Air Act limits in the monument area.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican who supports fossil fuel development on public lands, initially said he worried that the new leases would bring eyesores too close to the park. “The state wishes to ensure leasing of these parcels does not impact visual resources or cause light or sound disturbances,” he said in comments submitted to the B.L.M. in July.

The monument’s National Park Service administrators have also expressed concern about dust, night lights, air and water pollution and threats to endangered species. The 330-square-mile, high-desert park is visited by about 300,000 people a year. It was designated a national monument by President Woodrow Wilson in 1915, using powers granted him under the Antiquities Act of 1906.

The new drilling leases pivot away from a policy begun during the administration of Barack Obama, in which the Park Service and the B.L.M. collaborated to avoid visual and environmental impacts from industrial development on public lands near parks. The national monument, administered by the park service, is surrounded by federal public lands administered by the B.L.M. Both agencies are within the Department of the Interior.

More gas and oil drilling is part of the Trump administration’s announced goals of what the president has referred to as “energy dominance. The Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, has said that “oil and gas production on federal lands is an important source of revenue and job growth in rural America.”

In response to the concerns expressed by Mr. Herbert and others, the B.L.M. has deferred action indefinitely on about 1,600 acres near the park that had been proposed for leases, and said that it will try to mitigate impacts at the monument from drilling activity on the remaining areas near the park.

The governor’s office declared that it was satisfied by the changes.

“Thank you @BLMNational for listening to our concerns about protecting the visitor experience at @DinosaurNPS,” Mr. Herbert said on Twitter.

Others are unhappy. Critics say the shift is emblematic of changes that will affect a wide range of other parks and monuments, as well as those who visit them.

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