Tens of thousands of leased acres used for oil and gas production in Bears Ears area canceled

May 8, 2024, 9:00 PM | Updated: May 13, 2024, 1:27 pm

The House on Fire ruins at Bears Ears National Monument April 9, 2021....

The House on Fire ruins at Bears Ears National Monument April 9, 2021. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct the acronym for Bears Ears Partnership to BEP. It was previously written as BEG. We regret the error.

BLUFF, Utah — Much of the Bears Ears area has been open to oil and gas leasing, but that’s all changing.

The Bureau of Land Management canceled more than 40,000 acres of oil and gas leases in the Bears Ears area. Specifically, the BLM canceled 25 of the 28 parcels of Bears Ears land meant for oil and gas leasing. 

It’s a significant win for the Bears Ears Partnership, which says that the land is incredibly archaeologically and culturally rich.

President Barack Obama established Bears Ears National Monument in 2016. The BLM co-manages the site alongside the US Forest Service and a coalition of five Native American tribes. 

Between 2018 and 2019, more than 100,000 acres of Bears Ears land was leased to “oil and gas interests,” with “minimal input from Tribes and public,” according to a press release from BEP.

The official BLM decision, signed by Cristina Price, Utah’s Deputy State Director for Lands and Minerals, did speak to cultural consideration factors in their decision-making process, according to their official record of decision. 

“Recent concerns brought forth by the Pueblo of Acoma” contributed to the decision, Price said in the document. Along with “careful consideration for these potential cultural resources,” Price said in the document.  

The litigation

In 2021, BEP litigated the sale of the BLM’s lease in 2018. According to their website, in 2023, the partnership settled that litigation with the stipulation that BLM will hold the parcels of land “in suspension,” while they re-conduct several preservation, historical, and environmental analyses. 

Advocates for the West, a nonprofit environmental law firm, joined forces with BEP and submitted a letter to the BLM. They argued that a complete cancellation of all the leases is based on a negative effect on cultural resources. The Pueblo of Acoma also submitted a comment letter and consulted with the BLM directly over the lease sales. 

BEP said this re-analysis “was vital to the ultimate cancellation of these lease sales.” 

Bears ears as sacred land

Bears Ears is culturally referred to as “the Lands Between.” According to Bears Ears Partnership, it is sacred ancestral land to Puebloan descendant communities, including the Pueblo of Acoma, Hopi, Zuni, The Rio Grande Pueblos, Ute, Navajo, and Paiute tribes. 

The Governor of Pueblo of Acoma, Randall Vicente,  said in a press release they are “deeply grateful” for the BLM’s decision to cancel these leases. 

“[This] affirms the importance of this landscape for the Pueblo of Acoma and other Pueblos and Tribes,” Vicente said. “This landscape is a living testament to our ancestors and our ongoing cultural traditions. Preserving these areas from development allows us to maintain our deep connection to our history.” 

The Bears Ears Partnership said this is a step in the right direction in ensuring Indigenous communities have a role in how culturally important landscapes are leased for development.

CONTINUE READING: Great Salt Lake level reaches seven-year high

KSL NewsRadio’s Britt Johnson contributed to this article. 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


FILE — A lone tree greets the sunrise at Dead Horse Point State Park in Grand County in this unda...

Larry D. Curtis, KSL TV

Weather alert: Heat advisory issued for Utah’s Pioneer Day

Expect some major heat this Pioneer Day! 100 degree plus temperatures are expected to hit the Wasatch Front from noon to 10 p.m.

60 minutes ago

A plane drops fire retardant as the Sandhurst Fire burns above Ensign Peak...

Mariah Maynes

Investigators unable to determine cause of Sandhurst Fire

Following the lift of evacuations, investigators said they were unable to determine the cause of the Sandhurst Fire.

16 hours ago

An aerial shot shows the blue waters of Quail Creek Reservoir....

Mariah Maynes

Hiker dies of heat exhaustion in Hurricane

Hurricane City Police responded to a call from a distressed hiker who ran out of water Sunday. She died of heat exhaustion.

18 hours ago

cars drive along guardsman pass...

Mariah Maynes

Guardsman Pass to close for road repavement

A portion of Guardsman Pass will close on July 29 for repavement, according to UDOT.

19 hours ago

The Sandhurst Fire burns above Ensign Peak north of Salt Lake City on Saturday, July 20, 2024....


Challenging, exhausting 24 hours for residents evacuated near the Sandhurst Fire

40 homes are still under evacuation order Sunday night as crews continue to fight the Sandhurst fire near Ensign Peak.

1 day ago

BEAR LAKE COUNTY, Idaho -- Authorities in Idaho say human remains were uncovered Thursday morning i...

Kennedy Camarena

13-year-old dies after going missing at Bear Lake

A 13-year-old girl was reported missing at Bear Lake. She was later found; her death was pronounced by medical personnel.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

A young woman smiles while reading the menu at a lakeside restaurant, enjoying the panoramic view o...

Bear Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau

The best restaurants to try in Bear Lake

Save this guide to the best restaurants in Bear Lake when you need to find a place to dine during your next visit.

Female leg stepping on weigh scales. Healthy lifestyle, food and sport concept....

Health Utah

Sustainable weight loss: the science-backed way to achieve it

Learn more about Debbie's weight loss journey with Health Utah, who have a unique weight loss philosophy for success.

Underwater shot of the fisherman holding the fish...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Your Bear Lake fishing guide

Bear Lake offers year-round fishing opportunities. By preparing ahead of time, you might go home with a big catch!

A group of people cut a purple ribbon...


Comcast announces major fiber network expansion in Utah

Comcast's commitment to delivering extensive coverage signifies a monumental leap toward a digitally empowered future for Utahns.

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

Tens of thousands of leased acres used for oil and gas production in Bears Ears area canceled