Oil and Gas Lease Sales Near Bears Ears National Monument
February 6, 2019 – Advocates for the West filed suit to halt oil and gas lease sales in an unprotected and archaeologically rich area in southern Utah. Located between Canyons of the Ancients and Bears Ears National Monuments, this region is by far the densest archaeological area open to oil and gas leasing on public lands in the United States. It is home to tens of thousands of archaeological sites considered sacred to many Native American peoples, including the Hopi, Zuni, Ute, Navajo and Pueblos of New Mexico.
Under the Obama Administration, requests by energy companies for leasing in the area were deferred due to the region’s vast and largely undiscovered cultural resources. The Trump Administration, by contrast, has sought to grant every request of the oil and gas industry.
Over the course of three lease sales, the Department of Interior is attempting to lease off almost every acre of these archaeologically rich lands. The leasing area contains dozens of ancient community centers and Chacoan Great Houses that are larger than the largest archaeological site in Bears Ears National Monument.
Our lawsuit targets the first of three related oil and gas lease sales, which was held in March 2018. The government is tying its analyses of two subsequent sales to the first. Between the three, more than 76,000 acres of land will have been leased on 44 parcels of culturally rich areas. In those parcels, the BLM acknowledges the existence of more than 1,700 archaeological sites.