Utah’s Red Rocks Landscape Is Being Threatened By Oil Interests Still Reeling From The 2020 Crash

Utah has some of the most beautiful and breathtaking scenery America has to offer. With its numerous national parks, and its towering mountains and rock structures, Utah provides stunning views and unique landscapes teeming with life.

Among those wonders, Utah’s Red Rocks park boasts colossal rock spires and beautiful desert wildlife.

But yet again, plans for oil exploration threaten another of America’s scenic gems. The Red Rock area stands to be destroyed at the greedy hands of oil and gas companies that care for nothing more than profit alone. They don’t care that exploring here would annihilate precious land that has been there for millions of years.

Many existing oil leases are not being used.
Many existing oil leases are not being used.

“Oil and gas wells have been drilled piecemeal around here for decades. But today’s wells represent a kind of backcountry industrialization that this area hasn’t dealt with before,” writes hiker and blogger Jeff Clark. “The area where the drilling is taking place attracts an estimated 500,000 backcountry recreationists a year. Those visitors are now a bedrock of Moab’s economy. Seventy percent of jobs in Grand County derive from tourism.”

The most recent lease sale threatened to blanket southern Utah’s landscape of red rock canyons and natural arches with drill rigs, pipelines, and truck traffic—replacing the clean air, expansive vistas, quiet stillness, and sense of wildness with the sights and sounds of industrial development, all while expanding fossil fuel emissions that are driving the climate crisis. At more than 114,050 acres across 77 separate parcels of public land, it would have been the largest lease sale since the George W. Bush administration, the New York Times reports.

The red rocks landscape in Utah has remained untouched by human development for millions of years.
The red rocks landscape in Utah has remained untouched by human development for millions of years.

The lease sale was so controversial that it prompted a lawsuit from conservation groups that held it up until the Biden administration put a pause on new oil leases.

According to the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), out of 2,975,000 acres of existing leases across the state, only 1,102,000 acres, or 63%, are currently in production.

Oil drilling could pollute this pristine environment.
Oil drilling could pollute this pristine environment.

The pace of new drilling has come to a near standstill and operators only develop approximately half of the permits that are approved. Oil permit applications are just over a tenth of what they were a few years prior. As of February 2021, only three active drill rigs remained in the entire state of Utah.

Oil companies haven’t reduced the number of active drilling sites out of care for the environment, it’s simply no longer profitable to extract these fossil fuels.

Help us save Utah's red rocks landscape!
Help us save Utah’s red rocks landscape!

America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act was first introduced in 1989, SUWA reports, and would protect more than 8 million acres of land around the state of Utah. Public lands are under increasing pressure to be developed or sold off, but this act will protect them while also helping slow climate change.

President Biden’s pause on new oil leases does not ban new oil and gas development on existing leases, but there are still those willing to stand up for our natural wonders. Click below to make a difference.

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