Can drilling and recreation get along in Moab, Utah?

This article appeared in the Nov. 9, 2015 print edition of High Country News.

Neal Clark has been watching his feet a lot this fall day. The young environmental lawyer chose flipflops for today’s tour of the Utah desert with the blithe self-assurance of someone comfortable outdoors. Remarkably, he’s stumbled into thorns only once. Now, he cautiously threads a gap between banks of cryptobiotic crust. The castle-like colonies of microorganisms anchor the thin topsoil; no conscientious environmentalist would crush them. But Clark pauses: Just ahead, an oil rig towers on a patch of earth scraped bare to accommodate trucks and equipment. “There’s something ironic about tiptoeing around crust next to something like this,” he says wryly.

That incongruity stretches far beyond this spot. Clark, who works for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, is pointing out Bureau of Land Management parcels that are being developed for oil and gas near Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park and some of the other scenic areas that have made nearby Moab an outdoor recreation mecca. More…

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