The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Utah office has canceled its Nov. 13 oil and natural gas lease sale so it can take a closer look at what impact drilling on the sale properties would have on wildlife habitat.

After receiving new information, the Interior Department agency believed it was appropriate to "stop and reassess our analysis" of the habitat effects of drilling on the properties to be offered in the auction, said Terry Catlin, energy team leader for BLM in Salt Lake City, UT. This was the first time in more than 20 years that the BLM has canceled a quarterly oil and gas lease auction in Utah, she noted.

Drilling on the 140,000 acres in central and north Utah, which were to be offered in the November auction, potentially could affect the habitat of a host of species, including deer, elk, sage grouse, pigmy rabbits and prairie dogs, Catlin said.

The agency has been under pressure from members of Congress to halt oil and gas development on wilderness-quality lands in Utah (seeNGI, March 12), and has lost key court decisions on the issue.

The BLM Utah office's next scheduled oil and gas auction is Feb. 19, 2008. "We think we will be holding that...We're moving forward on it," said Catlin.

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