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Environment

Salazar Cancels Utah Oil And Gas Leases

Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday that he has canceled the leases for oil and gas drilling on dozens of parcels of land near Utah's famed canyon country.

Salazar said the Bush administration rushed to sell oil and gas leases near Arches and Canyonlands national parks, Dinosaur National Monument and Nine Mile Canyon as President Bush prepared to leave office.

The decision affects 77 parcels of public land near national parks, monuments and sensitive landscapes that were put up for bid in December. The parcels total about 130,225 acres.

Salazar said the parcels did not get the environmental reviews appropriate for sensitive landscapes. He said other last-minute Bush administration actions are under review.

"We need to responsibly develop our oil and gas supplies to help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but we must do so in a thoughtful and balanced way that allows us to protect our signature landscapes and cultural resources — in places like Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Parks, Dinosaur National Monument and Nine Mile Canyon — for future generations," Salazar said.

The canceled oil and gas leases are worth about $6 million. Bidders will get their money back. Salazar said some of the parcels may be offered for leasing in the future after the appropriate reviews are conducted.

Several groups had filed court papers challenging the leases last month. A federal judge granted a motion for a temporary restraining order on the 77 parcels on Jan. 17.