By Brian Maffly | The Salt Lake Tribune
The share of Utah under lease for oil and gas development could grow by nearly 280 square miles this week after the Bureau of Land Management completed its latest quarterly auction of drilling rights on public lands.
The 144-parcel online auction wrapped up Wednesday after three days of bidding, netting $1.5 million in bids, including $869,000 for 19 controversial parcels in San Juan County. These 32,000 acres overlap tribal cultural sites around Alkali Ridge and Montezuma Canyon east of Blanding.
An obscure South Jordan firm that has gone by Ayers Energy and Ayres Energy — and has no history in oil and gas drilling — bought leases on 15 of the San Juan parcels, further consolidating its large stake in this archaeologically sensitive region.
Because the BLM has yet to fully survey these lands for ancient Native American artifacts, critics charge that the agency is putting these cultural resources at risk and promoting energy development over other uses, such as historic preservation and recreation.