In a major move to protect public lands, Obama"s Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced last week that his agency was cancelling 77 contentious oil and gas drilling leases across 130,000 acres of remote Utah canyon country. The leases—which were close to some of the Southwest"s most iconic landscapes including Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Dinosaur National Monument and Nine Mile Canyon—had been issued at the eleventh hour by the lame duck Bush White House. A coalition of environmental groups—including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), Earthjustice and the Wilderness Society—responded by filing suit in federal court against the planned leases just this past December, which led to a temporary stay on any development.
"This bold action by Secretary Salazar reaffirms the priceless value of America"s wilderness and signals a new day for Washington," says Sharon Buccino, senior attorney for NRDC. "The development of these lands would not have had any real impact on our energy security, and we don’t need to sacrifice the West"s last wild places at the hands of the oil industry."