Red Rock canyon country. Photo by Peter Rivera, Flickr.
A land filled with breathtaking vistas, Utah’s Red Rock country is world-renowned for its beauty, solitude, and ancient cliff dwellings and rock art.
But this unparalleled wild place — and other such places throughout the West — could be destroyed by uncontrolled oil and gas drilling unless new policies are put in place to permanently protect it.
Under the Bush administration’s “drill first, ask questions later” policy, Big Oil and Gas enjoyed unprecedented access to our public lands, all while collecting $72 billion in taxpayer subsidies. This accelerated leasing program left some federal employees with the mistaken belief that they’re required to fast-track leasing on public lands.
A game-changing lawsuit brought by The Wilderness Society, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and other groups has gotten the attention of the Obama Administration. As a result, the Interior Department is working on new policies for oil and gas leasing on federal lands that are expected within the next few weeks.
Not surprisingly, Big Oil and Gas have mounted a massive campaign to derail the new guidelines. That means it’s up to us to loosen the grip of the oil and gas industry and take back our public lands.
Among the treasured lands Big Oil and Gas are coveting that could be protected by new policies:
- Eleven million acres of Utah’s Red Rock canyon country
- Colorado’s Vermillion Basin
- New Mexico’s Otero Mesa, and
- Wyoming’s Red Desert.
The public lands of the Rocky Mountain west already make an important contribution to America’s oil and gas production. But this production shouldn’t sacrifice any more wilderness-quality landscapes.
Currently 47 million acres of public lands, an area larger than the entire state of Washington, are leased to oil and gas development. The environmental impacts of this accelerated leasing program are many. Rural communities such as Pinedale, Wyoming once famed for their air quality now suffer big city pollution. Water quality in many areas is threatened with pollution from the chemical compounds used in drilling. Hundreds of thousands of wilderness-quality lands have been leased and drilled, and wildlife habitat has been degraded.
photo: Red Rock canyon country. Photo by Peter Rivera, Flickr.