The encroachment of energy development on lands near national parks in the West has the potential to cause conflicts between extraction, recreation and conservation. The Department of the Interior (DOI) has a tool to deal with these potential conflicts before they occur: Master Leasing Plans (MLPs). Initiating and MLP process in localized areas of likely conflict before development occurs can help avoid drawn-out challenges, protect park lands, and provide certainty to both thriving national park gateway communities and to developers. This report encourages a wider embrace of MLPs in the West and details several national parks that would benefit from MLPs being conducted nearby.
NPCA and Master Leasing Plans
The National Parks Conservation Association was instrumental in the actions that led to the Interior Department establishing the Master Leasing Plan process in 2010, and we continue to advocate for MLPs near parks threatened by oil and gas development.
NPCA is actively participating in the Moab MLP, affecting oil and gas development near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. NPCA is pushing the National Park Service and the BLM to undertake Master Leasing Plans near Chaco Culture National Historical Site, Dinosaur National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park and Yucca House National Monument, and others.
How Can Master Leasing Plans Help Protect National Parks?
If done well, Master Leasing Plans can help ensure that oil and gas development near sensitive places like national parks is planned with consideration and care for the many non-drilling uses of the land. Ideally, the outcome is a collaboratively planned blueprint for future leasing and development. MLPs are designed to zoom in on especially controversial areas identified within a BLM Field Office Resource Management Plan, or RMP.
By advocating for and participating in the MLP process, the National Park Service can help ensure that both park resources and tourism economies of local communities are protected. At the same time, the BLM can fulfill its mandate to manage for multiple uses, providing oil and gas leases where appropriate and providing protection for landscapes, recreation and other uses where drilling is inappropriate. MLPs provide an opportunity to plan for balance, making sure controversial leasing decisions are “smart from the start.”