Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is auctioning off resource rights to over 110,000 acres of public lands in Utah to oil and gas producers. The lands include parcels near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Dinosaur National Monument, and Nine Mile Canyon, which is home to “the highest concentration of Native American rock art in the United States.”
Yesterday, Robert Redford spoke out against the sale. He noted the lands’ significant historical value and criticized the Bush administration for its “deception” and “sleight of hand” in rushing to hold today’s auction:
The lands are not Cheney’s and Bush’s. The lands are ours. They’re ours because they are part of our legacy. They are part of the human, American legacy. … We should not allow this to happen. It’s criminal.
Last night on the O’Reilly Factor, guest host Juan Williams asked White House Press Secretary Dana Perino to respond to Redford’s comments. After saying she would not “attack him personally,” Perino accused Redford of “blind hatred” of the president and said, “If somebody actually got him the facts, he would know that it’s illegal to drill in national parks.” Watch it:
Perino, it seems, is the one who needs to get “the facts.” No one is claiming that the Bush administration wants to extract resources from National Parks. The Bush administration is, however, attempting to extract resources from areas located just outside such parks and historic landmarks without properly considering the detrimental effects drilling would have.
Indeed, the National Trust for Historic Preservation filed suit Wednesday in an attempt to block today’s auction for that reason. According to the suit, in rushing to complete the sales before the end of the Bush administration, the BLM violated multiple federal laws including the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and Federal Land Policy and Management Act.
In a statement to ThinkProgress, Karen Hevel-Mingo, Program Manager of the Southwest Region at National Parks Conservation Association, explained the expected negative impacts of drilling the areas that are up for auction today:
Oil and gas development near the parks would have a profound impact on park resources and the visitor experience. Air quality, water quality, views, night skies and natural quiet would all be in peril. Ozone levels at Arches and Canyonlands are already hitting the ceiling for allowed levels.
Additionally, roads and other infrastructure would be built allowing increased off road vehicle access and subsequent damage and creating long lasting scars across the landscape.