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Protests spark over drilling near national monument in Utah

Hovenweep National Monument. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

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.