Oil and Gas Drilling on Public Lands

Much of the oil and gas produced in America comes from wildlands managed by the federal government. Some places are too wild to drill though—with important wildlife habitat, scenic beauty and other cultural and environmental benefits at risk.

The Wilderness Society is working to protect some of these wild places from potential damages from energy development, including oil and natural gas.

We work to ensure that conservation is being taken into account when development decisions are being made. This is done by guiding projects to more suitable areas and protecting places where drilling should not happen.

What The Wilderness Society is doing

The Wilderness Society is committed to making sure that oil and gas development is done safely and responsibly, while making sure our most pristine and treasured landscapes are protected.

We do this through our work with local communities, state and federal government agencies and those who value our lands for a multitude of uses including conservation, hunting and fishing and other outdoor recreation opportunities.

A number of land management plan revisions, wildlife protection efforts and reform of how federal agencies do business gives us an opportunity to put conservation into the mix early on.

How drilling threatens wilderness

Oil and gas drilling leaves a large footprint on the land, Extracting these fossil fuels requires a mesh of roads, pipelines and well pads that break up large swaths of land and fragment wildlife habitat. Currently, oil and gas development is one of the largest threats to our wild landscapes. Learn more

Unequal ground

Unbalanced leasing policies on public lands put conservation and energy on unequal ground. These policies favor drilling above conservation and lead to millions of acres of public land being locked up.

Doing energy right

There are ways to protect important lands and still allow for some oil and gas drilling – but it has to be done in ways that avoid our most sensitive lands. Learn more about how The Wilderness Society is guiding energy development the right way.

Oil and gas FAQs

  • Michael Reinemer

    Citing some of “the most beautiful and iconic landscapes on earth” in Teton County’s backyard, the board of commissioners Tuesday morning unanimously passed a resolution that “opposes any and all efforts by the State of Wyoming to obtain the wholesale transfer of federal lands in Wyoming” to the state. In January, Sweetwater County filed a letter with the state legislature stating similar opposition to measures that would turn over federal public lands—such as parks, wilderness, and national forests—to state jurisdiction and management.

  • Tim Woody

    In spite of Royal Dutch Shell’s disastrous performance during the 2012 Arctic Ocean drilling season, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management today conditionally approved the company’s 2015 exploration plan, which provides even fewer safeguards for the Chukchi Sea and its sensitive coastline than Shell had in place three years ago. Shell also plans to bring a different rig operated by a new contractor to the Arctic Ocean in 2015, which could result in unexpected transport and drilling problems.

  • Michael Reinemer

    The Wilderness Society strongly supports bipartisan legislation, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2015 (S. 235, H.R. 167), to fix a budgetary problem called “fire borrowing.”  This is a destructive cycle in which the Forest Service is forced to take funds from other forest programs when its allotted wildfire funds are used up, essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul to put out fires in our national forests.