Here's something to give thanks for this holiday weekend: the Bush administration is partially backing off on its plans to allow oil and gas drilling on land near Arches and Canyonlands national parks in Utah. The Bureau of Land Management had planned to auction the drilling leases for the affected areas on December 19, but after loud protests from the Park Service, environmental groups, and the Obama transition team, some of the most sensitive parcels will not be for sale.
Of all the Bush administration's parting shots on environmental policy, these leases would have been among the hardest to undo. The Obama administration will be able to reverse many of the outgoing administration's environmental rule changes by going through the rule-making process again, but once a drilling lease is sold, it becomes the property of the oil company that bought it and can't be taken back. That's why it's good news that some (though, unfortunately, not all) of Southern Utah's threatened wilderness areas have received an unexpected Thanksgiving pardon.
--Rob Inglis, High Country News