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Protests spark over drilling near national monument in Utah

September 12, 2019
This June 20, 2017, photo provided by Chris Wonderly shows Hovenweep Castle at Hovenweep National Monument on the Colorado-Utah border. The U.S. government will allow oil and gas companies to make lease bids Monday on lands considered archaeologically sensitive near a national monument stretching across the Utah-Colorado border that houses sacred tribal sites. Included in the Bureau of Land Management’s September oil and gas lease sale is about 47 square miles (122 square kilometers) of land north of Hovenweep National Monument, a group of prehistoric villages overlooking a canyon with connections to several indigenous tribes throughout the U.S. Southwest. (Chris Wonderly/National Park Service, via AP)
This June 20, 2017, photo provided by Chris Wonderly shows Hovenweep Castle at Hovenweep National Monument on the Colorado-Utah border. The U.S. government will allow oil and gas companies to make lease bids Monday on lands considered archaeologically sensitive near a national monument stretching across the Utah-Colorado border that houses sacred tribal sites. Included in the Bureau of Land Management’s September oil and gas lease sale is about 47 square miles (122 square kilometers) of land north of Hovenweep National Monument, a group of prehistoric villages overlooking a canyon with connections to several indigenous tribes throughout the U.S. Southwest. (Chris Wonderly/National Park Service, via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The U.S. government has sold drilling rights to about 40 square miles (104 square kilometers) of land near the Utah-Colorado border considered archaeologically sensitive to an energy firm.

Environmentalists and tribal organizations are protesting a decision announced Wednesday to allow Ayres Energy LLC to develop land near Hovenweep National Monument in southeast Utah.

Environmentalists have said drilling on the high desert would damage the prehistoric tribal structures and pollute the air.

Ayres Energy LLC could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Bureau of Land Management sold oil and gas companies drilling rights to about 110 square miles (285 square kilometers) of public land throughout the state, generating more than $1 million during its September lease sale.

Leases will not be finalized until such protests are resolved.

BLM representatives said the sale helps achieve the Trump administration’s goal of promoting American energy independence.

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