Blog Post Nicholas Lund Aug 31, 2018

Federal Government Unleashing a Flood of Oil and Gas Leases in the West, Leaving Parks Surrounded

NPCA worked with an aerial photographer to document the beauty and threats to five Southwestern parks where oil and gas development is rapidly encroaching on the landscape.

The Trump administration’s rush to put public land in the hands of oil and gas companies is threatening to strand our national parks in a sea of industrial development. The federal government is set to auction off more than 2 million acres before the end of the year, including parcels near Canyonlands National Park, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Petrified Forest National Park and others.

These sales are the latest from an administration that has made it official policy to lease as much land as possible, as quickly as possible, with as little environmental review and public input as possible.

Since Secretary Ryan Zinke took helm of the Department of the Interior last year, the agency has conducted more frequent lease sales while collecting little to no public comment and conducting virtually no environmental reviews of the impact development could have on nearby lands, including national parks. Since the start of 2017, the agency has offered oil and gas leases near more than 20 national park landscapes. More leases will go up for sale this September and December, with the potential to damage public lands for decades to come.

NPCA recently worked with photographer Chris Boyer of Kestrel Aerial Services to highlight at-risk landscapes in the Southwest. He flew over Colorado, New Mexico and Utah to capture unique views of some of the national park landscapes that could soon be surrounded by drilling.

Special Feature See the aerial photos

About the author

  • Nicholas Lund Former Senior Manager, Landscape Conservation Program

    Nick is a conservationist and nature writer. He is the author of several forthcoming books, including the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of Maine (2022) and “The Ultimate Biography of Earth” (2022). His writing on birds and nature has appeared in Audubon magazine,, The Washington Post, The Maine Sportsman, The Portland Phoenix and Down East magazine, among others.

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