In a last-minute change, the Bureau of Land Management announced Friday it is pulling nearly 100,000 acres of federal land from an oil and gas lease auction scheduled for next week.
The agency says the public has raised concerns about impacts to sensitive species and cultural resources within some of the parcels slated for auction in Emery County near the San Rafael Swell.
BLM spokeswoman Megan Crandall says deferring the lands will give her agency more time to assess the area for natural and cultural resources.
“The whole point is that by deferring them we’re allowing the additional time to get through that process and make sure that we really are using the most appropriate lands for oil and gas development.”
Crandall says new federal rules allow BLM officials to remove parcels right up to the day of the auction. She says the move shows the BLM is committed to protecting potentially sensitive lands.
“The fact that we made the decision to defer these parcels based on much of the input that we received from the public, I think that it’s proof that the national leasing reform, that we began in 2010, is working," she said.
Crandall said that by deferring action on the 99,960 acres, it's more likely that bidding on the remaining parcels will lead to production.
"It seems counterintuitive," she said. "But in many ways by deferring these lands, we are actually increasing the certainty for industry."
44,0000 acres – mostly in Carbon County - will still go up for auction on Tuesday.
The BLM says it administers 3.8 million acres of land that is leased for oil and gas development. In fiscal year 2012, Utah received more than $164 million from royalties and other payments from federal minerals including oil and gas.