America's public lands and waters are the economic foundation for Western communities, but antiquated oil and gas policies are threatening outdoor experiences, recreation economies, and the future prosperity of public land communities.
Through recently proposed reforms, the Bureau of Land Management will update the outdated oil and gas leasing program, to better manage oil and gas development, and ensure that recreation resources are prioritized to meet today's needs, challenges, and opportunities.
The new rule will limit oil and gas development in outdoor recreation hot spots, and disincentivize speculative leasing that ties up land manager resources that could go towards enhancing outdoor recreation opportunities.
The proposed policies will allow rural communities to provide high quality of life through access to natural places, attracting both visitors and business investment.
Tell the BLM you support the new oil and gas leasing rule to support outdoor recreation on public lands now!
Dear Tracy Stone-Manning,
I commend the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Department of Interior, and the Biden administration for proposing long-needed updates to the oil and gas leasing on our federal public lands. Today's federal oil and gas program is antiquated and jeopardizes outdoor experiences, recreation economies, and the future prosperity of public land communities by prioritizing oil and gas over important uses like hunting, fishing, biking, hiking, and other everyday activities.
This necessary rule helps fix this outdated system by establishing a fair return for taxpayers and ensuring that our public lands are better managed for all uses to prevent future conflicts between outdoor recreation and the oil and gas industry. In turn, it will allow rural communities to provide high quality of life through access to natural places, attracting both visitors and business investment.
Applying the rule's "leasing criteria" to future lease sales will help reduce conflicts with wildlife, cultural, and outdoor recreation resources. The criteria will also reduce the practice of "speculative leasing." Our country's current speculative leasing practices tie up public lands in unproductive leases for decades, discouraging investments in new trails and outdoor recreation assets. These assets have become reliable economic drivers bringing both tourism and business investment, as more and more companies and professionals choose to live where there is access to healthy landscapes.
In addition to eliminating non-competitive leasing, the rule should be strengthened by requiring that lands found to have a low preference for leasing - whether it is due to a lack of development potential, or the presence of important wildlife habitat, or local demand for recreation assets - be excluded from future sales.
The proposed rule also takes long-overdue action to increase bonding rates to a reasonable level, ensuring that oil and gas developers who profited from drilling pay the actual cost of restoration. The current amount companies must cover before they begin drilling was set over 60 years ago. These bonding rates have never been increased to account for inflation or the costs of cleaning up modern wells. Without these reforms, many communities across the west are on track to have thousands of abandoned wells polluting nearby public lands, waters, and air. If we continue to fail to provide sufficient bonding for capping wells at the end of their life cycle, we will leave community after community with no hope of utilizing their public lands for outdoor recreation.
The BLM's new requirements would ensure companies cover the actual, expected clean-up costs for current and future oil and gas activity on public lands and federal mineral areas.
I also support the proposed rule's implementation of increased fees required to lease and drill on public lands and federal mineral areas, as mandated by recent legislation to bring those payments up to the same levels required by many states in the West and across the country. I thank the BLM for proposing that the minimum rental rates and minimum lease bid be adjusted annually for inflation beginning in 2032. I also request that the BLM require a higher royalty rate in 2032 to ensure taxpayers continue receiving a fair share from the industry's development of publicly-owned resources.
America's public lands and waters belong to all of us and we all have an interest in using them wisely. These lands are the economic foundation for local communities, businesses, and economies across the West. Reforming the federal oil and gas leasing system is necessary to balance development and conservation responsibly and ensure that recreation resources are prioritized and maintained to meet today's needs, challenges, and opportunities.
We are counting on the Biden administration to listen to the public and finalize the strongest possible reforms as soon as possible.