New Administration Should Embrace Process Promoting Local Input on Federal Lands Leasing
WASHINGTON –Today the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalized a landmark oil and gas leasing plan on federal lands between Arches and Canyonlands national parks in Utah.
The release of the Moab Master Leasing Plan (MLP) is the result of a collaborative process where stakeholders from the resource extraction, recreation and conservation communities worked together to recommend how oil and gas could be leased on lands important to multiple economies.
The resulting plan either closes or prohibits surface disturbance on nearly 450,000 acres adjacent to Arches and Canyonlands, a clear statement that the Moab region wants to insulate its $262 million tourism economy from incompatible energy development on adjacent lands.
Below is a statement by National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) Southwest Regional Director David Nimkin:
“Energy development on public lands does not have to come at the expense of protecting our national parks. Local communities and other stakeholders should have a say in how their economies develop. After this comprehensive process, it’s clear that citizens and businesses in Moab support prioritizing the protection of two of America’s most famous national parks, Arches and Canyonlands. The BLM deserves praise for supporting this collaborative process and integrating these diverse interests in this finalized plan.
“Arches and Canyonlands are known worldwide for their rugged landscapes and stunning views. Had oil and gas interests been given unrestrained access to lands adjacent to these parks, it would have had a massive impact on park visitors’ wilderness experience and the quality of their, air and water. This Master Leasing Plan process rightfully showed that this was an unacceptable trade-off to many of the stakeholders.
“President-elect Trump’s reported nominee for Interior Secretary, Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana, said he wants to see more stakeholder input into BLM decision-making, and that’s exactly what this process exemplifies. The Moab Master Leasing Plan is the gold standard for how energy development near national parks should be conducted. The process was open and transparent, and allowed for input from all affected stakeholders. If the incoming administration wants locals to help guide development on public lands, it should look to the Moab process as its model.”
In December 2008, the outgoing Bush Administration offered up 77 oil and gas leases on 130,000 acres of BLM lands, including several on pristine lands near Arches National Park. The immediate outcry from national park visitors, local recreationists and citizens from across the country prompted the Obama Administration to announce a series of reforms in order to create a more balanced approach to how leases are issued in sensitive areas.
The most innovative of those reforms were Master Leasing Plans (MLPs), which seek to provide custom leasing plans in areas of high interest to the conservation and recreation communities. The BLM is currently evaluating 17 MLPs in the West on lands adjacent to several national parks including Dinosaur National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Capitol Reef National Park.
In 2015, more than 2 million people visited Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, generating almost $262 million in economic output for the local economy and supported almost more than 3,000 jobs. In fact, nearly one out of every two private sector jobs in Grand County is related to travel and tourism. In 2013, tourism and recreation generated almost twice as much tax revenue for Grand County as natural resources industries ($9.8 million to $5.7 million). Tourism represents nearly a fifth of the total revenue for all of Grand County.
Earlier this year, NPCA released a report detailing the success MLPs have had balancing protections for national parks and other sensitive lands with responsible energy development.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historic, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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Former Senior Manager, Communications