KZMU: Moab and Grand County Unite Against Oil and Gas Leasing in Sand Flats Recreation Area

Feb 7, 2020

Elected officials in Moab City and Grand County are now united in opposition to proposed oil and gas leasing in the Sand Flats Recreation Area. Both councils passed resolutions asking the Utah Bureau of Land Management to remove two nominated parcels from a June oil and gas lease sale. KZMU's Molly Marcello has more.

EMILY NIEHAUS: It’s a water issue and it’s a recreation issue.

Moab City Mayor Emily Niehaus. Sand Flats Recreation Area is home to the internationally-
known Slickrock Bike Trail. The county estimates Sand Flats contributes nearly $7 million
dollars in net value to the local economy.

Sand Flats Mountain Biking
Credit Robert Rebholz

The nominated parcels also sit on top of Moab’s sole source aquifer. There are concerns
Moab’s tourism economy would be irreparably damaged if water resources were impaired.

EMILY NIEHAUS: And I think it’s worth it to mention that this particular area is our Sand
Flats bike trail, and there are a lot of places where oil and gas development really fit with the
landscape and this is just probably not one of them.

The parcels in question do carry stipulations that bar surface disturbances like road
building and drill pads, but hydrocarbons could be reached through horizontal drilling on
adjacent lands.

This nomination has drawn wide local opposition even from those known to mostly
support oil and gas leasing, like county council member Curtis Wells.

CURTIS WELLS: You know generally I’m a supporter of multiple use. But I think particularly
with Sand Flats, with the motorized and nonmotorized - in addition to the camping and
hiking – this just isn’t really a logical site for high potential oil and gas development.

Grand County’s resolution calls the inclusion of these parcels in an oil and gas lease sale
“irresponsible…development.”

This story was originally aired on partner station KZMU.