The Bureau of Land Management has announced it has opened up two parcels of land underneath the Slickrock trail in Moab, Utah for leasing for oil and gas extraction.
The 10.5 mile Slickrock trail is one of the most iconic in mountain biking as riders head out over petrified sand dunes for a physical and technical test in the desert. The BLM is opening seven parcels of land in total in Grand County, Utah, two of which are in the Salt Flats where Slick Rock is located. One of these is said to cover two-thirds of the trail. The land was nominated for consideration in November 2019 by an anonymous company however, its name will be revealed during a public consultation period.
The BLM says that not all leased land gets developed and the current parcels would not allow any surface work to be completed, however directional drilling from adjacent parcels could still be used to extract the fossil fuels from under the trails.
Emily Niehaus, Moab Mayor, told the Salt Lake Tribune
: "My concern is always that we maintain a balance in our valley and county and surrounding public lands. We know oil and gas are part of the makeup of our economy. We have done a good job of saying where recreation goes and where extraction goes. My question is: Are the recreation areas going to be negatively impacted?"
The proposed land will now undergo a period of public consultation that begins on February 20 and lasts for 30 days. They will then become available for lease in June. The operators will then have to submit a proposal and an environmental analysis will be conducted. Reports indicate that the bids will not pass the public consultation as the potential for energy production is low and the land should generate more revenue through tourism than drilling.
A public fightback is already happening with some mountain bikers proposing to start a crowdfund to outbid the oil companies and industry veteran, Ashely Korenblat, encouraging local businesses to co-sign her letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt opposing the plans. She told Bicycle Retailer and Industry News
: "We have a good chance of winning, but not if we do nothing: funny how that works." Her letter can be read in full and signed here
The leases come as part of Trump's Energy Dominance
plan that saw him pull out of the Paris Climate agreement, open up new land for leasing and cut the red tape that prevented the construction of energy infrastructure such as pipelines. Last year, the USA held 28 onshore oil and gas lease sales that generated $1.1 billion USD.
Read more about the BLM proposals, here