Put land conservation on par with oil drilling

During the past four years the Bureau of Land Management has leased a record amount of public land to oil and gas developers

AZ Central by Thomas Hulen

Former Interior secretary and Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt recently made news, and I would say history, when he proposed a land-conservation idea worthy of consideration and implementation: to permanently protect 1 acre of public land for every acre leased for oil and gas development.

During the past four years, under President Barack Obama’s administration, the Bureau of Land Management has leased a record amount of public land to oil and gas developers, resulting in fewer acres of public land available for conservation, recreation and other non-consumptive uses.

In fact, the ratio between developed land and protected land is quite lopsided. The oil and gas industry has leased more than 6million acres of public land over the past four years, compared with only 2.6million acres permanently protected.

The 112th Congress, which thankfully adjourned for good in 2012, was the first Congress since the 1940s not to protect a single new acre of public land as a park, wilderness area or national monument. What this means to the American people, who value their public lands, is that an area of open space the size of Rhode Island was lost to energy development every year.