The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is delaying a decision on leasing southern Utah lands to Alton Coal Development for a mine expansion near Bryce Canyon National Park.
Instead, the agency plans to conduct a supplemental environmental study addressing issues raised by the public and other federal agencies.
The BLM's Kanab Field Office had closed comments on its study of the proposed lease west of the park, and issued a draft listing its preference for approving the project. The National Park Service and Environmental Protection Agency, though, submitted comments opposing the expansion on 3,581 acres of federal land partly because of fears about air quality and haze harming stargazing opportunities in Bryce Canyon.
A final decision had been expected this year, but now will be delayed until next year. The BLM said its supplemental study will address issues raised by the other agencies and 177,000 people who commented.
"Because the BLM is committed to providing the best analysis possible," the agency said in a news release, it will "address issues raised to date, including wetlands and air quality, and provide increased protection measures for greater sage-grouse habitat."
Project opponents expressed disappointment at the further study.
"We felt the bureau had more than enough information in front of it to reject the proposal outright," said Steve Bloch, an attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
The strip mine currently operates on private land but is seeking to expand onto public land.
firstname.lastname@example.org Mine's fate on hold
The Burean of Land Management plans to do more study of plans to expand a coal mine near Bryce Canyon National Park.