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

    Senator Cantwell, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has scheduled a hearing in Seattle on August 27 to examine wildfire issues.  Senator John Barrasso, who chairs that committee’s Public Lands, Forests and Mining subcommittee, is also scheduled to participate in the hearing.

  • Tim Woody

    When President Obama visits Alaska at the end of August, climate change will be a key focus of his trip. The Wilderness Society developed the following memo to provide a brief primer on key Alaska public lands where the effects of climate change can already be seen. This information is intended to ease your research and inform your reporting during the president’s visit. It focuses on four areas where the president’s administration has made major, important decisions:

  • Anastasia Greene

    “We are heartened to see that President Obama is focusing on clean energy as part of building an enduring environmental legacy in the last 18 months of his presidency, and the Clean Power Plan is a good start,” said Jamie Williams, president of the Wilderness Society, one of the oldest conservation groups in the United States. "This administration has shifted the role our public lands play in powering the nation. We have solar projects on public lands for the first time ever.