As the federal government unveils new initiatives intended to expedite oil and gas leasing and permitting on the nation’s federal lands, a coalition of hunters and anglers is reasserting the need for balanced energy development on valuable public lands fish and wildlife habitat, Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development announced today.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey touted the initiatives today as the secretary ends a two-day visit to North Dakota during which he promoted energy development as an economic engine as well as the increased production of domestic oil and gas resources. An automated process for applications for permits to drill and increased transparency in federal leasing and development decisions were highlighted as part of the government’s approach to facilitating the “safe and responsible development” of domestic public lands energy resources.
“We agree with Director Abbey’s stated goal of automating the application process to make good decisions more efficiently and transparently,” said Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife Federation’s senior policy adviser on public lands. “We take the director and Secretary Salazar to mean that this isn’t intended to simply speed up and rubber stamp applications and lease nominations – and that good decisions include measures to protect fish, wildlife, air and water.”
SFRED characterized 2010 federal reforms to the nation’s onshore oil and gas program as a positive step toward recognizing fish and wildlife values on public lands. In particular, the coalition stresses 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.
“Sportsmen have consistently supported and promoted energy development on America’s public lands and don’t want to see unnecessary bureaucratic red tape obstructing the responsible cultivation of our domestic energy resources,” said Steve Belinda, senior advisor on energy programs with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “But we will not tolerate sacrificing valuable resources – including our waters, air and fish and wildlife habitat – simply to cater to industry’s desire for faster permitting. Close to 40 million acres of public lands already are leased to industry for energy development – the ability to develop these areas lies in their hands.”
“Public lands are just that – public, so it is commendable that the BLM wants to increase the transparency with which they approach development,” said Brad Powell, western energy director for Trout Unlimited. “Giving communities the tools to easily engage in land use decisions, coupled with the leasing reforms announced in 2010, will certainly help the effort to find solutions that meet both the need to develop and the need to maintain quality fisheries and habitat.”
SFRED acknowledges the economic value of America’s public lands as drivers of both energy development and the outdoors and sporting industries. “America needs the raw materials provided on Western public lands, and the jobs supported by these activities are important contributors to the Western economy,” the coalition stated in testimony presented to the House of Representatives last month. “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.”