Report: Our blueprint for balancing the energy boom with conservation

Jonah oil fields, Wyoming. 


Under the current American energy boom, the federal government has placed far greater emphasis on oil and gas development on public lands than it has on conservation.

This pattern is pushing drill rigs right to the edge of our communities and national parks, while leaving wildlands protection in the wake.

Case in point are the 12 iconic wild places featured in our Too Wild To Drill campaign. They include places such as Arches National Park, Chaco Canyon and the Arctic Refuge.

We feel it's time to reverse this trend. 

Our new report Blueprint for Balance outlines critical steps the Obama Administration must take to create a healthy balance between energy development and wildland protection.

Video: See why drilling policies are out of balance and what needs to be done to fix the problem.

"We need to be as intentional about conservation as we are about development," said Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams at an Aug. 6 press conference announcing the report. 

The report was a joint effort of the Equal Ground campaign which includes the Center for American Progress the Conservation Lands Foundation the Center for Western Priorities and the Western Energy Project. 

If taken, the measures in the report will help ensure our wilderness and our outdoor recreation economy is protected for current and future generations. 

In general stricter oversight of leasing programs and greater use of tools to preserve wildlands is needed.

The Blueprint for Balance report outlines the following steps that the Obama Administration should take:   

  • Protect more wildlands:
    • Create new national monuments
    • Establish new wildlife refuges
    • Press Congress to pass land conservation legislation
  • Promote and expand outdoor recreation as an economic engine:
    • Protect backcountry recreation areas
    • Incorporate economic measures of outdoor recreation land management decisions
  • Pay back the land
    • Establish fees to help offset environmental damages created by drillers
    • Give a portion of revenues from oil and gas drilling to a new conservation fund
  • Prohibit drilling in areas with high conservation and recreation values
    • Fully implement 2010 oil and gas leasing reforms
    • Give priority to drilling proposals in low conflict areas that conserve land
    • Implement fracking rules for public lands

Why these recommendations are needed: 

Currently oil production is at its highest level in more than a decade and U.S. dependence on foreign oil has dropped. Yet federal policies continue to favor a lopsided leasing policy that puts oil drilling above other uses like conservation, recreation and hunting and fishing.

Consider these additional facts: 

  • A total of 38 million acres of public lands (about the size of Florida) is already leased to the oil and gas industry, yet the industry continues to gain more access to our wildlands. 
  • The Obama administration has been leasing public wild lands to drilling at a rate 2.5 times faster than it is protecting them as parks, wilderness, and national monuments.
  • Some of those lands are extremely sensitive or highly beloved as outdoor recreation spots, such as 12 iconic American lands in our Too Wild To Drill Campaign

Only with responsible oil and gas drilling policies can we ensure that our last, best wild areas are protected for future generations. 

Read the full report: 

A Blueprint for Balance - Protecting America's Public Lands Amid Energy Boom