U.S. Department of Interior Faces Lawsuit for Offering Oil and Gas Leases

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The U.S. Department of Interior is facing scrutiny after offering oil and gas leases in what is known as a remote section of southeast Utah. Advocates for the West is, a conservation organization, is suing the department for offering the leases in an area that is rich with relics of ancient culture.

The conservation group is filing on behalf of Friends of Cedar Mesa. This is the target of the first of three related oil and gas lease sales that took place in March of 2018. These parcels, located in an area between the former boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument and Canyons of the Ancients, are said to contain a plethora of ancient community centers as well as Chacoan Great Houses.

These Chacoan Great Houses are stated to be larger than even the largest archaeological site that is documented at the Bears Ears National Monument.

A representative of the Friends of Cedar Mesa stated that the organization has reached out to try and compromise with federal land managers. While attempts have been made, the land managers are said to have refused the removal of any sensitive parcels for potential sale.

An acknowledgment has been made by the federal government of the existence of 1,7000 archaeological sites between the sales. The sales consist of more than 76,000 acres of land that will have been leased on 44 parcels of land. While the leases from March of 2018 have been bid on, they have not been issued.

This is due to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) not yet resolving any protests. Before activity may occur on the parcels, an environmental review must be conducted by the BLM complete with an analysis of potential impacts as well as a survey of cultural sites.

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