On the Chopping Block

On the Chopping Block

National parks and public lands are under threat from oil and gas development

There’s long been the expectation that some of America’s public lands are too special to drill. But the policies being set by President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are paving the way for drilling at the doorstep of America’s national parks, monuments, and prized public lands.

Here are the most spectacular lands we know are currently threatened with industrial development by President Trump and Interior Secretary Zinke. This list will be updated as more of America’s public lands wind up on the chopping block.

Dinosaur National Monument

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is auctioning a 145 square mile lease this December at the doorstep of Dinosaur National Monument, which could result in drill rigs and pump jacks within eyesight of the monument’s entrance, visitor center, and popular hiking trails.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

As part of its March 2018 oil and gas lease sale, the BLM is considering whether to lease a parcel of land that directly borders the northern boundary of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. More leasing will further diminish the national park, which is already inundated with oil and gas rigs and their impacts: 24-hour gas flares affecting the park’s dark skies, increased pollution from traffic, and lost wildlife habitat.

Carrizo Plain National Monument

Secretary Zinke is considering eliminating the Carrizo Plain National Monument as part of the administration’s review of dozens of national monuments protected over the last two decades. The national monument has high oil and gas resource potential and eliminating the monument could lead to industrial across what’s been called the “Serengeti of California.”

Chaco Culture National Historical Park

The Bureau of Land Managment is planning to lease 26 parcels of land in the Chaco Canyon region during a March 2018 oil and gas lease sale, breaking a promise to defer all leases within 10 miles of the park. New Mexico political leaders have asked Secretary Zinke to halt these lease sales. 

Hovenweep National Monument

A proposed March 2018 oil and gas lease sale in Utah could result in leases, oil drill rigs, and pump jacks adjacent to Hovenweep National Monument, an area in southern Colorado and Utah with a high density of cultural and archaeological sites.

Bears Ears National Monument

Secretary Zinke has recommended eliminating acreage from Bears Ears National Monument, a decision which could lead to increased oil and gas drilling within the existing national monument. Additionally, a March 2018 oil and gas lease sale in Utah could result in drill rigs and pump jacks close to to the national monument.

San Rafael Swell

A December 2017 oil and gas lease sale in Utah could lead to oil and gas development in the heart of the San Rafael Swell, a rugged and starkly beautiful area of public lands in central Utah.  

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

Secretary Zinke is currently considering whether to eliminate Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, a decision which could lead to increased oil and gas development pressure. Additionally, a proposed March 2018 oil and gas lease could result in oil and gas drilling on lands that directly border the monument.

Zion National Park

Earlier this year, BLM proposed leases within a few miles of Zion National Park, but ultimately deferred the parcels in response to more than 40,000 comments opposing the sale, which came from local residents, businesses, counties, the Park Service, and Governor Herbert. These leases next to Zion National Park could still be sold at auction in a future sale.

Fort Laramie National Historic Site

As part of its March 2018 oil and gas lease sale, the BLM is proposing to lease parcels less than 0.5 miles from Fort Laramie National Historic Site despite objections raised by the park service. The park superintendent has expressed concerns about the effects of leasing on the visual visitor experience, air quality, and water quality.

Prime Sage Grouse Habitat Across the West

The BLM is considering selling oil and gas leases—including leases in Montana, Wyoming, and Utah—inside prime grouse habitat, further imperilling the species whose habitat has been decimated in recent decades. Sage grouse habitat supports hundreds of wildlife species, while recreation on these lands generates $1 billion annually in recreation spending. Diverse stakeholders—from governors and local elected officials to ranchers and conservationists—have partnered to create robust conservation plans to avoid an endangered species listing for the bird.