Moab, Utah is one of the most popular outdoor meccas in the western U.S. Boasting national parks, incredible rock climbing, and world famous mountain biking trails, the Moab region attracts millions of visitors every year. Moab is also home to significant oil, gas, and potash resources, some of which are adjacent to the Colorado River or to campgrounds and climbing areas. In the past, the nearly million-acre region was managed with a plan that offered numerous oil and gas leases in areas adjacent to protected landscapes, including Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. In response, President Obama and former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar decided to develop a process to help balance conservation, recreation, and development in this important area.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently released its Moab Master Leasing Plan and Draft Resource Management Plan Amendments / Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Moab and Monticello Field Offices. The Master Leasing Plan (MLP) outlines BLM management of oil, gas and postash development, while also protecting recreation opportunities on public lands that include two of the nation’s most iconic national parks—Arches and Canyonlands—which attract millions of visitors each year.
The plan is forward thinking because it balances development with the protection of recreation and conservation values on more than 900,000 acres of public land in the Moab area. It is being lauded by local business, local officials, conservationists, and recreation advocates. Outdoor Alliance particularly appreciates the MLP’s more sophisticated acknowledgement of the economic contribution of recreation, which goes beyond tourist spending to include the role protected public lands play in attracting high-skill workers and employers. In fact, the plan indicates that recreation will generate more than twice the economic output of oil and gas development. Recreation is a valuable and quantifiable asset to Grand and San Juan counties, and human-powered recreation will continue to be a key piece of the Moab area’s economic engine over the MLP’s fifteen-year lifespan.
The MLP specifically protects several world-class climbing areas, such as Indian Creek and Wall Street, and mountain biking trails, such as Porcupine Rim and Kokopelli Trail, which are powerful drivers for tourism and provide the local population with health and quality of life benefits. These crags and mountain biking trails are valuable, unique resources that warrant continued protection so that they can continue to provide the Moab area with their consistent benefits, economic and otherwise.
The MLP integrated input from multiple stakeholder groups that included the oil and gas industry, local businesses, local governments, recreation groups, and conservation groups. We believe the plan considers, and generally balances, the important issues, but there are also ways to improve the draft plan. Outdoor Alliance will be submitting comments to the BLM during the 90 day comment period and will reach out to the human-powered recreation community to support our recommendations. Stay tuned for more information regarding this landmark plan.