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Bureau of Land Management Forecloses Oil Leasing, Utah Sues

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In yet another spat between the Bureau of Land Management and a western state, Utah is suing the federal agency after it unlawfully foreclosed oil and gas leasing on unprotected lands. (RELATED: Victory for Cliven Bundy, Nevada rancher who challenged feds)

Utah’s litigation alleges that the BLM is imposing ‘wilderness criteria’ on lands outside designated wilderness and wilderness study areas. Uintah County and the Utah Association of Counties is joining the suit, claiming that they have been left out of key management decisions.

In response, federal lawyers argued that Utah had failed to show actionable injury arising from the BLM’s move, given that the agency has not actually reached a final decision and is temporarily assessing the lands for conservation value.

Disputes like these are part and parcel of why title to federal lands west of the Colorado/Nebraska line should be transferred over to western states for better and more efficient management, said Carl Graham, director of Sutherland Institute’s Center for Self-Government in the West, Wednesday at an event hosted by Americans for Tax Reform.

A recent study conducted by the Nevada Public Land Management Task Force discovered that state-managed lands yielded gains of $28.59 per acre, while BLM-managed lands resulted in a loss of 91 cents per acre.

“Western lands have provided cheap, abundant and often renewable food, energy, minerals, timber and reaction for the entire nation for generations. Who better to conserve and steward those resources than the people who live in the lands and have tended them for generations?” Graham argued.

The Forest Service pointed out in its own 2002 study, The Process Predicament, that current administrative requirements prevent adequate management of the National Forest System. Post-decisional appeals and litigation create increased gridlock, making responsible management impossible.

“This affects people on the east coast. They are paying billions of dollars a year to manage federal lands. They’re paying for the privilege of keeping the west from being productive,” said Graham.

“The idea that you can only manage lands from Washington, DC rather than the people who have been on the ground for generations is ludicrous on its face and insulting. This is all a control issue.”

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