Report highlights the need for protection of lands that are Too Wild to Drill

Aug 12, 2015
Efforts to better balance where and how energy development occurs on federally managed public lands are still leaving critical wildlife habitat and cultural, historical and recreation lands at risk.

The Wilderness Society’s 2015 edition of Too Wild to Drill identifies some of the places that should be off-limits to energy development and calls on federal agencies to protect these lands for future generations.

“Some of America’s wildest places continue to face threats from oil and gas development,” said Bob Ekey, energy campaign director at The Wilderness Society. “There is room for both energy development and conservation on our public lands but to strike a better balance we need to see a bold commitment from land managers to protect places that are Too Wild to Drill. We need to see a stepped up commitment to conservation.”

The Wilderness Society’s report  features places in Alaska, Colorado, Montana and Utah that are most endangered by energy development and being valued only for the extractive resources under them while ignoring the overwhelming values of what’s above the surface.

Lands featured in Too Wild to Drill include:

  • Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
  • Colorado’s Thompson Divide and the Grand Junction region
  • Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine
  • Utah’s Bears Ears and lands near Desolation Canyon

“Protecting these special places should take precedent over development,” said Ekey. “We have learned a lot over the years about the long term impacts energy production can have yet we continue to leave lands open to development when they shouldn’t be.”

Currently the Bureau of Land Management has plans in place that leave over 90% of the lands in its purview open for potential energy development despite strong public support for better balancing energy development with other uses of lands. 

Millions of people flock to wildlands to hike, camp, hunt, fish, bird-watch or participate in other recreational activities. Outdoor recreation adds more than $646 billion to the U.S. economy every year. This economic driver employs millions of people as well – usually in the places closest to the protected wildlands that people are visiting. Thousands of acres of public lands are also home to important cultural and historic ruins, petroglyphs, and sites sacred to Native American Tribes, yet not protected for those important values.

“America’s history is embedded in our lands and waters,” said Ekey. “There are generations of stories to be told about adventures and the history behind our public lands. These places can remain a part of our families and communities if we work together to highlight why other values should rank equally as important as oil and gas on our federal lands. Interior Secretary Jewell has acknowledged that some places in America are ‘too special to develop’ and we hope that sentiment will trickle down from Washington to the places that need attention and protection. ”


The Wilderness Society is the leading public lands conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than 500,000 members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 110 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands.

Contacts: Jennifer Dickson, (303) 650-9379,; Bob Ekey, (406) 556-7121,