Public Pressure Saves Legendary Biking Trail From Trump Administration’s Drilling Lease

Utah's Slickrock Trail was under threat of being leased for oil and gas drilling

Bikers riding Slickrock Trail
Two bikers ride the Slickrock Trail in Utah.
Getty Images
By Luis Paez-Pumar / February 22, 2020 2:56 pm

Slickrock Trail, a 9.6-mile path in the Sand Flats Recreation Area just outside of Moab, is one of Utah’s most-appreciated natural tourist attractions. And thanks to public pressure, it will now be preserved after facing a threat earlier this week from a planned Trump administration intervention.

Washington Post analysis of the administration’s plan to lease part of the trail for gas and oil drilling revealed that it would have severely cut into the world-famous cycling landmark. Specifically, the two parcels of land that were planned for lease would cut off more than 60 percent of the route, severely diminishing its appeal as a destination for mountain bikers around the world. However, thanks to pressure from various local governments, outdoor brands, residents and cyclists, the parcels have now been taken off the planned lease, preserving Slickrock Trail in its entirety.

Prior to the decision by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to remove those parcels from their plans, Republican Utah governor Gary Herbert released a statement through a spokesperson this week, calling for a deferral of the parcels up for lease, citing concerns over “the visitor experience,” as well as the water quality in the area. Meanwhile, the city council of nearby Moab voted in January to oppose the lease of the parcels and, along with support from cyclists and major outdoor brands such as Clif Bar, helped push the BLM to make the decision to spare the trail.

BLM’s Moab field manager, Nicollee Gaddis-Wyatt, released a statement announcing the decision on Friday, calling out the public response to the plans as a key reason for the change:

We understand that the public has concerns about two of the parcels that were considered during the internal review period. After careful consideration and analysis over the last two months, those parcels will not be included in the proposed June oil and gas lease sale.

Moab mayor Emily Niehaus praised the decision, as well as Herbert’s involvement and the continued partnership with the BLM:

Let’s celebrate this decision because they are listening. I am deeply grateful to our governor. The state of Utah is doing a good job of balancing the economic implications of our public lands. This move says to me we have a partner in the governor’s office. We have a partner in the BLM. We are moving forward.

The trail brings in more than 191,000 tourists to the area, as well as $700,000 in revenue for the county.

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Read the full story at the Salt-Late Tribune

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