SALT LAKE CITY — A video about a unique land use plan being crafted for the Moab area debuted at the Outdoor Retailer show this week, touting the approach as a model for the rest of the nation to achieve balance between recreation and resource extraction.
The video, called “Balancing Act in the West: How America’s Playground Can be a Model for Recreation and Drilling,” was put together by the Centre for American Progress, an independent, nonpartisan educational institute based in Washington D.C. and founded in 2003.
Multiple people are featured in the short video, which describes the Bureau of Land Management’s Moab master leasing plan, a multi-year effort that kicked off after then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar instituted oil and gas leasing reforms in 2010.
The idea behind master leasing is to come up with land use plans that embrace an entire “landscape” approach, rather than the BLM approving oil and gas drilling or other activities on a case by case basis.
Proponents hail master leasing as a way that will provide certainty and help put an end to litigation by environmentalists by setting aside areas up front that aren’t suitable for drilling, for example, and should be protected for high recreation value, sensitive species or iconic landscapes. The oil and gas industry, however, has said the master leasing process duplicates the 2008 resource management plans on the books that were the results of years of planning.
In the Moab area, the leasing plan encompasses more than 946,000 acres, the vast majority of which is BLM land. The area encircles Moab, wraps around Arches National Park, with the Green River as its western boundary. Its northeastern boundary is Canyonlands National Park, while its eastern boundary is U.S. 191.
Matt Lee-Ashley, a spokesman with the Centre for American Progress, said the video was put together to showcase something unique playing out in Utah.
“The video is focused on what is happening in the Moab area, but we think it has relevance and interest for communities around the West — and for lawmakers and decision-makers in Washington,” he said. “Whereas there has been a lot of attention in recent years on the impacts of the drilling boom and the controversies that result, this video aims to be more forward-looking and demonstrate how things can be done right.”
He admits that a video about “policy” isn’t as exciting as a story about a conflict, but he hopes people can look past that.
“We think the video will remain relevant for many months, especially as people see other MLPs take shape across the West and want to learn more about how it works.”
Ashley Korenblat, owner of Western Spirit Cycling in Moab, has been heavily involved in the BLM master leasing process and is one of the featured people in the video.
She was in Salt Lake City at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market when the video debuted and saw the reaction of many of the exhibitors.
“Many people at the Outdoor Retailer had no idea there is drilling in Moab. They simply did not think it was possible to drill for oil and gas in the area,” she said. “In their minds, the whole place is protected and it is where they go on vacation. They were pretty shocked to hear that drilling is happening at all.”
Korenblat said she explained that the activity by Fidelity Exploration and Production Co., — stoked in part by advances in horizontal drilling technology — is happening as a result of legally acquired leases that were issued 50 years ago.
The conflict that is erupting, however, is fresh, tangled up in the ideal that landscapes around Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands National Park should remain untouched by oil extraction.
“What we are working on in this plan is places that are not to be leased and sorting out where the drilling should happen and the recreation should happen. That is what the master leasing plan allows us to do, get very detailed about it.”
The plan is still in draft form, and it involves hundreds of diverse people with their own interests and vision of how the land in the Moab area should be used. It has not been an easy process, but Korenbalt said the people who are committed to Moab are committed to the process, despite the bumps along the way.
“The bottom line is people care about Moab. And I am optimistic we can get to a place where we agree. The amount of acres where we disagree is shrinking.”
National business leaders lend support for protecting Moab in new Outdoor Retailer ad campaign
Recreation and public lands means big business for the town of Moab. That’s why Interior Secretary Jewell’s hard work supporting the collaborative approach of the Moab Master Leasing Plan—which promotes both “smart from the start” oil and gas development—is so important to Moab’s business leaders.
That’s why Public Land Solutions is so proud to sponsor a five-day advertising campaign at the Outdoor Retailer show, featuring some of Moab’s most innovative business leaders as they join us in expressing our thanks to Secretary Jewell for being willing to do the heavy lifting to protect Moab’s outdoor-recreation economy. Working with a diverse array of stakeholders, we’re on our way to developing a balanced approach that puts Moab’s outdoor-recreation economy on an equal footing with energy development.
Representing some of the nation’s most exciting and respected recreation-based companies, the business leaders featured in the campaign are:
· Sally McCoy, CEO, Camelbak
· Nazz Kurth, CEO, Petzl
· Gareth Martins, director of marketing, Osprey Packs Inc.
· Ned Post, president, Smith Optics
· Chico Bukovansky, VP of sales and merchandising, Dakine
Businesses thrive in Moab because public lands present world-class recreation opportunities in such places as Castle Valley, Gemini Bridges and Indian Creek. Two of the nation’s most iconic parks—Arches and Canyonlands—bring thousands of visitors to Utah each year. The revenue they create powers local governments and thousands of good jobs. Those businesses deserve to be heard—and so do the thousands of Americans who enjoy our most iconic wild places. Together, we can work hard to create a scenario where both energy development businesses and outdoor recreation businesses can succeed, while we preserve our most treasured wilderness as spaces for Americans and our children to experience the outdoors for generations to come.