(KCPW News) Today, the Bureau of Land Management will sell leases for oil and gas development on more than 100,000 acres of Utah wilderness. The move has been widely criticized by environmental groups and Utah's biggest star, Robert Redford, has joined the fight.
"This is not their land. It's our land, these are public lands. And the BLM is supposed to be protecting those lands on our behalf. And once these lands are taken away, they're gone, and gone doesn't come back," Redford says. "And so I feel pretty strongly that we have to do everything … it isn't a question of trying to talk to them. That doesn't work. They've been trashing the environment ever since they came in, almost as if they had a duty to do so."
Redford is a trustee for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which was one of seven environmental and conservation groups that filed an injunction on Wednesday, challenging the lease sales for 110,000 acres of wilderness.
The move comes as no surprise to the oil and gas industry. Kathleen Sgamma with the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States says environmental groups have contested all of the lease sales in the West this year.
"They just don't want any responsible natural gas and oil development in Utah, period," Sgamma says. "No matter where it is, they're going to protest it. No matter that we need clean burning natural gas in order to address climate change and in order to provide secure energy in order for Americans to heat our homes. They're just not interested in natural gas development at all."
Sgamma says the lease sale today is not a "midnight maneuver" or Christmas gift to the oil industry from the Bush administration, as environmentalists contend. She says the sale is no different from the agency's other quarterly lease sales.