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Michael Oko’s Blog

Salazar Takes Utah Land Leases Off the Table

Michael Oko

Posted February 4, 2009

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The new Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, just announced that the U.S. government will cancel 77 land leases that were issued in the last days of the Bush administration. This action will put an immediate stop to the exploitation of these lands by oil and gas companies that wanted to industrialize the earth for little or no gain. It also signals a new balance of environmental and industrial interests under the Obama administration.

In December, I got the thrill of joining Robert Redford and several environmental groups for a press event to announce that we were taking legal action to put a stop to land leases in Utah. While this was an exciting event, I didn't really know what the outcome would be. Well, today, we found out.

We are grateful to Mr. Redford, the original "Sundance Kid," who has lent his voice and support to this issue. He said in a written statement:

"American citizens once again have a say in the fate of their public lands, which in this case happen to be some of the last pristine places on earth." 

These vulnerable areas are near some of America's most beautiful Western landscapes: Arches and Canyonlands national parks, Dinosaur National Monument, and Nine Mile Canyon. Most people can picture the clay red arches and picturesque vistas that are part of the fabric of the West and are ingrained in our culture.

Sharon Buccino, the lead attorney for NRDC's legal action, declared:

"This bold action by Secretary Salazar reaffirms the priceless value of America's wilderness and signals a new day for Washington."

I couldn't agree more.

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