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Opposing factions continue to protest energy lease sale

Sun Advocate publisher

The last day to protest an energy lease sale brought a myriad of responses to the United States Bureau of Land Management last Thursday, complicating an already short lag time between the final protest date and the actual bid time for the federal agency's Dec. 19 auction.

The federal agency has pulled back about 84,000 acres from the mineral lease sale because of previous complaints.

Nevertheless, many of the same groups that were protesting the pulled back acreage continued to lodge complaints against the BLM's sale on the basis of areas that haven't been excluded from the mineral lease auction.

Protests seemed to come in the hardest concerning the following:

•A White River lease in Uintah County.

•Sites in Desolation and Labyrinth Canyon .

•Areas that have not been withdrawn from the sale around Canyonlands National Park.

•Federal mineral leases located in the Book Cliffs.

•Areas that have not been withdrawn in the Nine Mile Canyon area.

•Locations on the Deep Creek Mountains in the western Utah desert.

Several opponents maintain that the upcoming mineral lease sale is one last shot by the Bush administration in a battle to open up almost all areas of the western United States to oil and gas drilling activities.

However, the BLM points out that the auction represents one of the federal agency's regularly scheduled quarterly sales of mineral leases that have been conducted for some time.

Protesting factions include all types of groups, ranging from conservationists to preservationists.

The protesters include the Outdoor Industry Association, which presents the group's largest national show in Salt Lake each summer.

The association came into prominence in Utah in the late 1990s when a tornado blew through downtown Salt Lake City while the group's outdoor show was being presented.

The storm did a lot of damage to the exhibitions at the show and claimed the life of one individual.

The association has voiced concerns about allowing wild stretches of primitive rivers to be negatively affected by drilling and production operations.

According to, the protesting groups include the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Grand Canyon Trust and the Sierra Club.

Combined, the groups have a million members to support their stance.

Also reportedly participating with the protesters is Trout Unlimited. The organization is concerned about a fish recovery program in the area around the Deep Creek Mountains.

Federal officials will announce the final decision regarding the sale on Friday, at which time the BLM will disclose if the federal agency intends on dropping any additional lands from the mineral lease auction.

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