The Wilderness Society works to protect ecologically sensitive lands and waters from oil and gas development and to make sure the oil and gas drilling that does take place on the nation’s wildlands is done safely and responsibly.
Public lands and energy development
Since the beginning of the 20th century, our public lands have been an important part of the nation’s energy strategy. The federal government began leasing public lands for energy development with the passage of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920. It still leases public land to oil and gas companies for energy development.
Current production on public lands
Worldwide energy demand and economic conditions are key factors that influence annual oil and gas production. Public lands play a crucial role in U.S. oil and gas production. In the first three years of the Obama administration, oil production on public lands increased 13 percent compared to the last three years of the Bush administration, up to an average of 661.7 million of barrels of oil per year. More environmental scrutiny and an increase in safety regulations have accompanied greater production.
The Wilderness Society’s role
We see energy development as a valid use of some public lands, but there are some wild places that must be protected. We work to ensure that the most stringent environmental precautions are applied when oil and gas development occurs on our public lands and that development does not happen in fragile wild areas.
The Wilderness Society also makes sure that our most ecologically sensitive areas, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, remain permanently off limits to oil and gas companies.