The Moab Master Leasing Plan, finalized December 15 by the Bureau of Land Management, should be held up to leaders in Washington as a model for balanced, responsible decision-making on western public lands. The plan strikes a careful balance between protecting the special places around Moab, like Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and providing opportunities for new oil, gas and mineral development. Importantly, it reflects the values and vision of local residents and businesses, the interests and input of industry stakeholders, and comments and feedback from thousands of members of the broader public.
The previous, pre-MLP plan typified an antiquated approach that once dominated public lands decision-making, an approach that placed oil, gas and mineral development above all other uses and fostered conflict among stakeholders and multiple uses. That previous plan opened more than 99% of the lands around Moab to oil and gas leasing, including lands directly bordering Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. The previous leasing process would have allowed drilling and development along scenic stretches of the Green and Colorado Rivers, within prized hiking and biking trail corridors, and directly within view of Arches’ iconic Delicate Arch.
While the MLP still provides ample opportunities for new mineral development, opening hundreds of thousands of acres to new leasing, it also protects the special places that bring visitors back to Moab every year. The recreational amenities around Moab, its unique geologic features and its cultural treasures, deserve to be protected in their own right, but local residents and businesses also know that these resources form the backbone of a vibrant outdoor recreation economy. Outdoor recreation is truly big business in Moab, bringing hundreds of thousands of visitors every year and supporting more than $200 million dollars annually in local economic activity.
That’s why the MLP was emphatically endorsed by over seventy-five local, Moab-area businesses, the City of Moab, and several major national outdoor recreation retailers, including The North Face and Osprey Packs. Alex Boian, Vice President of Governmental Affairs for the Outdoor Industry Association, called the MLP an important milestone for the recreation industry: “We now have a tool that we can count on to help provide some certainty for future investment. Outdoor related activities generate billions of dollars around the country and needs to be taken seriously. The Moab Master Leasing Plan does just that and all those that recreate and depend on recreation income stand to benefit.”
Ann Krcik, Senior Director of the North Face, also applauded the new plan: “Our company proudly supports the now completed Moab Master Leasing Plan. The world-class recreation opportunities around Moab stand to benefit with this forward-thinking plan. A true win-win for all.” And Brian Merrill, CEO of Western River Expeditions, a rafting business based in Moab, offered praise on behalf of local businesses: “Thanks to the hard work of many local stakeholders we will be able to ensure visitors to our amazing home will continue to have an unparalleled experience that they will cherish for the rest of their lives.”
Westerners understand the value, jobs and revenues associated with traditional forms of energy development on our public lands. But they also recognize that, in the twenty-first century, public lands—our commonly-owned mountains, rivers, trails and parks—offer value, including economic value, in countless other ways. In striking a careful balance between all the values of our public lands, including the value of new energy development, the Moab MLP shows that bi-partisan decision-making on public lands is still possible in the west.