The Bush administration announced yesterday that energy companies will be allowed to expand oil and gas exploration beyond the boundaries of their leases at Canyons of the Ancients National Monument near Durango, Colo. The announcement marks the first time exploration has been permitted outside leased areas at a monument. Already, about 85 percent of the 164,000-acre Canyons of the Ancients is leased for energy exploration; now, the Bureau of Land Management has approved a seismic exploration project that will begin Friday on nearly 1,900 acres of unleased monument land. Environmentalists say further exploration would damage sensitive biological and archeological areas and set a dangerous precedent of increased energy development on prized national lands. Heidi McIntosh, conservation director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said the decision amounted to “giving public lands away to the energy companies.” Environmental groups plan to appeal the BLM decision.
Get Grist in your inbox