Riding through Change
The Slickrock Trail in Moab, Utah, one of the most iconic trails in mountain bike history, was recently threatened by oil and gas development through a lease that could include two thirds of the trail. Earlier today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced it has removed the Slickrock Trail area from the lease.
While this is a relief, it doesn’t feel like a win. This instance of a beloved recreation area being considered for oil and gas leasing is becoming increasingly common. It is a short-sighted approach that fails to consider recreation value in energy development. There is a place for both energy and recreation on our public lands, but we cannot have development encroaching on our favorite riding experiences.
Moab is an international recreation destination, attracting 5 million visitors a year who enjoy the area’s vast network of beautiful public lands. We don’t need to tell mountain bikers how significant and special Moab is for us, or convince anyone of the importance of recreation to Moab’s economy and community. The Slickrock Trail should have never been threatened to begin with. Moreover, the lease could still impact climbing and river access for our many outdoor recreation partners. If you’re so inclined, please tell the BLM to further review this lease to protect recreation.
How did this all go down? As many mountain bikers know, the BLM received an anonymous nomination from the oil and gas industry in November 2019 to open a lease auction on BLM land that covers two thirds of the Slickrock Trail and parts of the adjacent Sand Flats Recreation Area. The BLM had been planning to open public comments on this lease starting yesterday, February 20. IMBA and several partners have been working diligently to prepare for the comment period as well as to halt the lease. In recent days, Utah Governor Gary Herbert and Moab Mayor Emily Neihaus, among others, requested the BLM remove the parcel affecting Slickrock. Late on February 19, the comment period was delayed while a BLM official said the BLM may be removing the parcel from the auction. This morning that removal was confirmed. The parcels, parcels 11 and 12 on the maps in this Outdoor Alliance blog, would have allowed for drilling into areas including the Slickrock Trail and camping zones in Sand Flats.
We’re grateful to our partners at Outdoor Alliance and Public Lands Solutions for rallying with us on this issue, as well as to the many advocates who took initiative to contact the BLM about this lease before a comment period even began. We must continue to stay alert, stay engaged, and work together to protect the places we love to ride.