At a U.S. House of Representatives committee hearing this morning, Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, testified in support of adequately funded public lands energy development that integrates leasing reforms designed to conserve fish and wildlife and upholds the outdoors-dependent economies relied upon by communities across the American West.
Other speakers at the hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, which considers federal regulations and fees proposed for the energy industry, included U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey. Fosburgh spoke on behalf of Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development, a coalition of more than 500 businesses, organizations and individuals dedicated to conserving irreplaceable habitats so future generations can hunt and fish on public lands. SFRED is led by the TRCP, Trout Unlimited and the National Wildlife Federation.
Fosburgh emphasized the need for balance in charting energy development on the nation’s fish- and wildlife-rich public lands, an approach the SFRED coalition has consistently advocated.
“America needs the raw materials provided on Western public lands, and the jobs supported by these activities are important contributors to the Western economy,” he said. “Likewise, jobs and economic benefits dependent on fish, wildlife and the West’s outstanding scenery and recreation values have provided steady growth and are also important – but often overlooked – contributors to the wealth of the region and the country.”
Fosburgh also addressed reforms announced in 2010 to the onshore oil and gas program. He said those changes were a positive step toward recognizing fish and wildlife values on public lands, in particular the need to do more at the land use planning and leasing stages to minimize conflict, conserve multiple-use values and sustain fish, game, water and recreation. He cited the necessity of requiring the BLM to develop local “master leasing plans” to weigh potential drilling impacts before leases are offered in areas with high energy potential and high risk of environmental conflicts.
“Master leasing plans provide a new and powerful opportunity to avoid and minimize wildlife and other environmental conflicts that could result from poorly planned oil and gas leasing before a project is sited and investments are made,” Fosburgh continued. “This type of ‘smart from the start’ planning results in a win-win because it has the potential both to conserve fish and wildlife habitat and to resolve conflicts prior to the siting and development of oil and natural gas wells, thus avoiding costly delays and litigation.
“This approach also would follow the time tested progression of mitigation actions in which avoidance is the best and least costly way to deal with impacts,” stated Fosburgh. “A halt to these reforms now would be a mistake.”