Statement on Interior Department announcement on onshore oil and gas leasing

Jan 6, 2010

Following today’s announcement by the Department of the Interior (DOI) regarding onshore oil and gas leasing, Ann Morgan, Vice President of Public Lands for The Wilderness Society, issues this statement in response:

“The Wilderness Society has been eagerly awaiting clarification and repairs to the system that has been in place over the past eight or so years. Under the Bush Administration the oil and gas industry was running the show. We don’t see today’s announcement as “new rules” for the industry. This is a clarification of law and standards that already exist. The DOI has a duty to ensure that we find a balance between supplying our nation’s energy and preventing the destruction of water resources, habitat, and land that has been set aside for protection.

The Secretary has acknowledged the past problems and has offered an opportunity for a pragmatic, balanced approach to energy development. The Bureau of Land Management has deep expertise on these issues and they should be permitted to use their skills to manage the public lands they have been tasked with.

By encouraging Master Leasing and Development Planning, the associated environmental analysis, and greater on-the-ground review of areas to be leased, the BLM is ensuring that potential conflicts will be identified up front, not after the parcel has been leased by industry. This is a much more practical approach than relying on an environmental analysis of a planning area encompassing millions of acres with over 90% open to leasing. This approach brings the scale of the action in line with the scale of the environmental analysis and public involvement. Local communities, hunters and anglers, ranchers and people who care about particular places will be able to more effectively understand and engage in leasing decisions.”