Did you know that for every oil and gas development project on public lands and waters, a portion of the rents and royalties collected are invested in affected communities and the environment?
Renewable energy companies pay these fees as well, but right now, all that money goes back to the US treasury instead of the counties and land impacted.
America needs wind and solar energy to replace dirty fossil fuels, but it also needs healthy wildlands to produce clean air, clean water and recreation opportunities that allow people to enjoy the great outdoors.
To achieve both, we must balance renewable energy with conservation and other uses of our wildlands. While renewable energy is much cleaner than other energy sources, it can leave a heavy footprint on public lands.
This is where the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act comes in. This bi-partisan bill ensures that a portion of the income already collected from solar and wind projects developed on federal lands will be "paid back" to conservation and local communities. This important legislation was introduced in February and, if passed, will be an important tool for America to use to strike a balance between its energy needs and the conservation of its wild places.
But the window for passing this legislation before the midterm election is closing fast. Now is the time for Congress to finally act on moving clean energy forward and protecting our lands.
WATCH: The bi-partisan Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act proposes to pay back local communities and the land where wind and solar is developed
A strong public lands system, which continues to be an asset to our US Treasury, means we have to put back into it what we take out. Drawing from the earth's resources now means we need to reinvest in those lands, as well, to maintain long term stability.
Some of the best solar and wind resources are found in Western states like Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Wyoming. As we rely on public lands to transition to a clean energy future, we must ensure that we reinvest in local communities bearing the brunt of energy development.
Providing funding to local governments can help relieve the strain development might have on county operations and essential government services. With the income provided by this bi-partisan legislation, local governments can invest in initiatives such as hiring more staff or repairing roads and infrastructure.
Sensitive wildlands should also be protected when considering renewable energy development. Unavoidable impacts on public lands should be minimized where it's possible and should be offset through conservation measures where it's not. For example, the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act can help replant trees, repair damaged habitat and restore valuable watersheds