Arches National … oil and gas field?

Author and naturalist Edward Abbey didn’t even like people hanging out at Arches National Park near Moab, Utah, when he was a seasonal ranger there in the late 1950s. One wonders how he’d feel about the place being overrun by oil and gas wells.

In what appears to be yet one more Bush administration 11th-hour energy play, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) last week ruffled the feathers of its sister agency, the National Park Service, by proposing a massive oil and gas lease auction next month in and around three Utah national parks.

(Photo/Nick Williams)
(Photo/Nick Williams)
The iconic Delicate Arch in Arches National Park near Moab, a favorite destination for Colorado’s outdoor enthusiasts in search of a little “Desert Solitaire” (Abbey’s seminal 1968 book about Arches), could soon be within eyeshot of a slew of new drilling rigs if the 51,000 acres of leases are auctioned off Dec. 19.

“We find it shocking and disturbing,” Cordell Roy, the chief Park Service administrator in Utah, told The Associated Press. “They added 51,000 acres of tracts near Arches, Dinosaur and Canyonlands without telling us about it. That’s 40 tracts within four miles of these parks.

Aides to U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne ordered the Park Service and the BLM to make nice by instituting a compromise that requires the BLM to “take quite seriously” the Park Service concerns. BLM officials said they were perplexed by the furor because energy development near national parks is not out of the ordinary.

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