We’ve had a hand in some big victories in 2015. From establishing a smart-from-the-start planning process in Moab, Utah, to protecting both the Greater sage-grouse and western economies, to extending the life of America’s best parks program, we’ve seen a lot of accomplishments for the West. We’ve also supported more and more westerners as they add their voice to the ongoing conversation over a balanced approach to energy development and other uses on public lands.
Here are just a few of the major wins for westerners in 2015:
- The Land and Water Conservation Fund is now extended for three more years: In September, the LWCF expired after fifty years of strong bipartisan support—all because of one Congressman from Utah, who wanted to gut the fund and give handouts to Big Oil. Thanks to a huge amount of community support—from television ads we ran across the country to our members who wrote to their Members to ask them to support the Fund—it has now been extended for three more years, meaning everything from national parks to baseball diamonds will continue to be supported by the Fund for the next few years. But there’s still work to be done, because LWCF didn’t get the permanent authorization it deserves.
- The Interior Department committed to protecting the Greater sage-grouse alongside western economies: Also in September, years and years of on-the-ground work by sportsmen, sportswomen, farmers, ranchers, businesses, elected officials combined with western voices culminated in a win for the West when the Interior Department decided not to list the Greater sage-grouse as endangered. Instead, in an unprecedented partnership with states, governors, and counties, Interior is working to implement conservation plans that protect sage-grouse habitat while still allowing other western economic drivers—including energy development and outdoor recreation—to thrive. It was in large part thanks to westerners of all stripes—business owners, community members, elected officials, and even governors—that the bird avoided a listing, and it’s going to take the continued hard work of these same folks to ensure the plans’ long-term success.
- Moab, Utah—a recreation and tourism mecca—now has a smart-from-the-start approach to planning and development: In a decision supported by local business owners, outdoor recreationists, and even the Grand County Council, the Interior Department released in August a draft “master leasing plan” for the Moab area. The master leasing plan strikes an important balance between energy development and recreation in the region. Feedback on the Moab plan—including our members who added their voices during the comment period—was largely positive, and we look forward to 2016 when the plan will be finalized.
Of course, there’s still work to be done. We still need to bring a strong BLM rule against natural gas waste across the finish line. Every year taxpayers are losing out on millions in revenue thanks to the venting and flaring of natural gas and polls show Westerners support expect leaders in Washington to take action on this issue. We’ll be working hard to make sure that happens.
We look forward to new challenges and victories in 2016!