The Bureau of Land Management has proposed the lease of 53 parcels (79,000 acres) of wilderness quality land in the San Rafael Swell for oil and gas development. Moving forward with leasing the San Rafael Swell underestimates the recreational value of the Swell compared to perceived benefits from development. However, the Swell is highly prized by Utahns and is likely to diminish in overall value if it is leased and developed.
For example, the International Conference on Bear Research and Management will be held at BYU soon. One of the offered activities is a hike through the San Rafael Swell. It is featured with visits to Bryce Canyon and Antelope Island because of its proximity to campus and its status as an iconic Utahn and American landscape.
The quality of the San Rafael Swell is on par with wilderness and national parks and would be risked by development. When I hiked through Little Wild Horse Canyon in the Swell, I was stunned by the remarkable silence of the area. It was the first time in my life that I felt the restorative quality of solitude that is unique to wilderness. If the proposed areas are leased, I worry that my favorite areas will be up for grabs as well. Consider the local value of the land that can never be restored after development and file a protest through SUWA.
Annie Xie Bennion