Access for You and Me?

Today, the Wilderness Society (TWS) released a report detailing oil and gas leasing on public lands. Our public lands, especially those out west, are what make America unique. They’re supposed to be managed for the benefit of all Americans, allowing for the multiple uses prized by westerners including recreation, hunting, energy production, and grazing. But today’s report shows that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages 250 million acres of our public land, treats the oil and gas industry as the favored tenant.

TWS found that a whopping 90% of the acreage managed by the BLM out west is open and available for leasing by oil and gas companies—yet only 10% of this land is even available to be managed for other values, like recreation, wilderness, conservation, or for cultural and historic purposes. What’s more, 36 million acres of federal land and minerals are actively under lease by the oil and gas industry—yet only 35% of these 36 million acres are actually in production, meaning that the oil and gas industry has locked up the additional 23.4 million acres.

Industry often complains that the Administration is blocking oil and gas production on federal lands through slow permitting times and a lack of lands for lease. Yet a closer look reveals a different picture.

In FY 2013, the BLM offered up around 5.7 million acres for lease, yet industry bid on only 1.08 million of those acres — just 19%. In fact, oil and gas companies themselves say that they are following oil and gas plays off of federal lands onto private and state lands. Furthermore, oil production on public lands in FY 2013 was at the highest in over a decade.

Is energy production in the West important? You bet. But that doesn’t mean BLM should default to leaving areas open for leasing especially when there is competition for the land to include hunting, recreation, fishing and grazing. Just recently, WVP released a report finding that sagebrush land managed by the BLM generated nearly $1 billion in economic output just last year alone. All Westerners deserve a voice in how their land is used. Anything less just isn’t right. After all, this land was made for you and me, not just a select few.

Join the effort to strengthen the American West.