One of the great things about living and working in Moab is the ease of access to a large array of breathtaking scenic lands and recreation opportunities. This much is indisputable: Moab is special because of its spectacular public lands. And that’s why so many of us have chosen to raise our families and run our businesses here. It is also indisputable that these public lands provide the backbone of our economy; without the film and TV production industry, and the recreation and tourism industry, Moab would be a very different place to live.
Our area also is home to extractive industries — oil and gas and potash. These industries also contribute to our local economy and provide jobs to many in our county.
Between recreation and extraction, Moab has a powerful economy and is the envy of many communities around Utah and the West. However, balancing these two industries is challenging.
Fortunately, Moab has pioneered a great tool to do just that — it’s called the Moab Master Leasing Plan (MLP). The Moab MLP is the result of countless hours of collaboration and planning.
The stakeholders and agencies in the area have worked relentlessly to produce the best of both worlds, to the ultimate benefit of our community and all users.
This plan zones for the most balanced use of the landscape, from protecting our national parks and BLM lands to allowing opportunities for responsible energy development.
Recently, Grand County voted to send a letter to the Department of the Interior supporting the Moab MLP. This support is essential to the continued success of our community as we utilize recreation and extractive resources. The county’s confidence in MLPs as a planning tool will help ensure the Moab community and our public land managers have options at their disposal for balanced land use.
Master leasing plans are also heavily centered on public involvement and comments, both of which encourage the community’s voice to be heard when planning happens on our lands.
However, the current administration’s policies could put this plan, and others like it, in jeopardy. As a resident of Moab and the owner of a business in a gateway community that depends on recreation for economic prosperity, I am deeply concerned about the possibility that MLPs may no longer be an option for BLM planners. Local stakeholders need more opportunities to be heard, not less, and the MLP process is heavily reliant on local and stakeholder input and communication.
To lose this modern planning tool would be a big problem and lost opportunity for rural communities around the West. As recreation continues to grow as an economic driver, tools like MLPs will be essential to protect recreation assets while also ensuring that communities continue to see benefits from energy development.
Abolishing this type of planning will cause more conflicts between multiple uses and hamstring federal land planners as they are forced to continue trying to balance the needs of all stakeholders in varying and evolving landscapes.
It is possible for extraction and recreation to coexist — the Moab MLP proves it.
If the current administration chooses to meddle in this stakeholder-driven process, subsequent planning will be unbalanced and unable to meet the needs of the citizens and their businesses in their communities.
We need both recreation and energy development in order for our rural communities to thrive. It is imperative that MLPs be left as a tool in the BLM’s arsenal, for the sake of all our communities.