Western voices encourage new direction on public lands

In November, Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that the agency is “conducting a comprehensive review of our onshore programs to find out how we can make them more efficient and more rational.” Now is the perfect time for the Secretary to step back and examine the BLM oil and gas program to ensure it allows for the development, conservation and protection of all of the resources BLM is entrusted to manage; not just the oil and gas resources but clean air and water, healthy wildlife, wilderness and recreation.

The oil and gas industry grumbled over this announcement and has launched a campaign aimed at alarming Americans into falsely believing the economy and energy industry will suffer if any efforts are made to alter current leasing policies. It’s actually been the economy — not access to public lands — that is largely responsible for the slowdown in drilling operations across the West.

Despite the single minded focus of the Bush Administration on serving the oil and gas industry’s demands, 2/3 of the lands leased for oil and gas development — over 32 million acres — remain undeveloped. Even though BLM offers leases that have been identified and nominated by industry, nearly 1/2 of the parcels offered for leasing since January were not purchased by industry.

The Wilderness Society’s Ann Morgan joined other Western voices in a press call December 16, 2009 to discuss the misleading information out there and to clarify how a new path being considered by the DOI can in fact aid the economy out west. Conservation in the West is an economic issue for many small business owners, outfitters, farmers, and ranchers. In Colorado alone, hunting and fishing generated an estimated $1.8 billion in 2007 and supported approximately 21,000 jobs statewide; wildlife watching generated an estimated $1.2 billion in 2006 for the state economy.

Read here to learn more about what Ann had to say and check out the fact sheets below to see more evidence that the current alarms being sounded by the oil and gas industry are just another fire drill and are nothing to be alarmed about.

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