Eliminates collaborative planning, limits requirements for environmental review.
WASHINGTON – The Trump Administration this week moved to severely limit Americans’ say in whether oil and gas development should occur near national parks and other landscapes in the West, including the elimination of collaborative planning designed to protect iconic places while allowing responsible energy production to continue.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released an instruction this week that formally rescinded the Master Leasing Plan (MLP) policy. Put in place in 2010, MLPs were designed to allow communities in national park landscapes to have a say in where and how oil and gas development should occur. The process brought local business owners dependent on park visitation, recreational businesses, the oil and gas industry, tribal and cultural interests and other stakeholders together to help identify how to protect parks while allowing development.
The process was most effective in Moab, Utah, near Arches and Canyonlands national parks. In a process that was finished in 2016, the BLM brought together the National Park Service, local tourism and recreational communities, the oil and gas and potash industries, and produced a plan that was still widely open to oil and gas drilling while providing crucial protections for the national parks and their visitation experience.
In addition to eliminating this common-sense policy, the BLM’s new policy also institutes several major changes to leasing procedures, curtailing how the public can engage in the oil and gas leasing process, including:
- No longer requiring full environmental assessments of lease sales under the National Environmental Policy Act;
- No longer requiring BLM state and field offices to provide for public participating during its environmental assessment of potential parcels of land to lease; and
- Reducing the number of days for both noticing a lease sale and for internal appeal of a sale once finalized.
The following is a statement by Nicholas Lund, Senior Manager for National Parks Conservation Association’s Landscape Conservation Program:
“MLPs allowed stakeholders on the ground to work together to create landscape-level plans aimed at protecting outdoor recreation opportunities and providing economic certainty to local businesses and all industries that benefit from public lands. They ensured that everyone who cares about public lands – from county commissioners to drillers to sportsmen to tribal and cultural interests – had a say before lands were leased.
“This sweeping rollback of the public’s role in how we protect of our national parks and public lands will only put those places in danger of irrevocable damage. Our parks and public lands belong to the American people, and to silence their voice as industry threatens to drill closer and closer to the gateways of these places is to all but resign ourselves to park landscapes filled with polluted air, pocked with rigs, and drowned out day and night by loud machinery.
“By allowing this unwanted and unwarranted change, Washington is trading the West’s economic well-being and future generations’ outdoor heritage for uncertainty and conflict, a future our national parks and Western communities do not deserve.”
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 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspiration places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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Former Senior Manager, Communications