Press Release Mar 17, 2015

Time is Now to Link President's Energy Strategy with Strong Protections for National Parks

Administration's Proposals on Right Track, But Need to Finalize Necessary Protections

WASHINGTON – President Obama’s strategy for managing the nation’s energy production must include strong protections for national parks and their connected landscapes, several park advocacy groups said today.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell today laid out how her department will continue to execute the president’s all-of-the-above energy approach. The plan calls for coupling ramped-up production with additional protective measures, including forthcoming rules for hydraulic fracturing on public lands and increasing industry fees to permit and inspect projects.

While the president has begun several processes to shield national parks from the impacts of domestic energy production, the delay in their implementation leaves parks exposed to ever greater damage as production ramps up.

“The secretary describes today’s plan as a path toward a balanced energy future, but that balance is achieved only when protections are put in place,” said Nicholas Lund, manager of the National Parks Conservation Association’s Landscape Conservation Program. “The administration has proposed a number of effective, common-sense measures to ensure national parks are shielded from the most damaging effects of energy production, and while progress is being made in some areas, for the most part those plans are still just on paper.”

With national parks in the spotlight during the upcoming centennial of the National Park Service in 2016, these groups hope that the administration will finalize these important plans and rules before parks are irreparably harmed.

“The proposed measures would go a long way toward providing an appropriate balance between energy development and resource conservation,” said Maureen Finnerty of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees. “The best birthday present the administration can give to the national parks and park visitors is to ensure the planning and rulemakings are completed before the end of 2016, so that America’s national parks remain unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Included in a list of still-incomplete actions begun by the administration to protect national parks from the harmful side effects of energy development are:

  • Master Leasing Plans (MLPs) to better balance conservation of resources with oil and gas development near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah and Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado that have not been finished despite years of work and collaboration;

  • Oil and gas leasing on public lands near Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwest New Mexico that continues despite repeated calls for an MLP or Resource Management Plan (RMP) Amendment that safeguard park resources;

  • MLPs to minimize the impacts of energy development on parks like Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, the Utah portion of Dinosaur National Monument, and Devils Tower National Monument that have not yet begun;

  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regulations for hydraulic fracturing that have not been finalized despite public comment being closed for nearly two years;

  • Draft rules to control the waste of methane – a powerful greenhouse gas that is collecting over the Four Corners region in a cloud the size of Delaware – that have not been released by the BLM or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and

  • The delayed finalization of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) needed to ensure landscapes connecting parks in the California desert – including Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Preserve – are not fragmented by improperly-sited industrial solar facilities.

“Secretary Jewell laid out what needs to get done to protect the future of our nation’s public lands,” said Ellis Richard, founder of Park Rangers for Our Lands. “We are pleased that she noted the importance of using Master Leasing Plans as a tool to strike a balance between energy development and the protection our nation’s great national treasures such as Chaco Canyon, Dinosaur National Monument, and Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. The time is now for BLM state directors to act on the plan Secretary Jewell put forward. Just last month, the BLM opened 92 percent of lands to development in southwest Colorado near Mesa Verde National Park. We can and will do better to achieve balance on public lands as BLM state directors finally begin to implement MLPs and the other smart-from-the-start oil and gas reforms Secretary Jewell advocated today.”

Background : The United States has witnessed a surge in domestic oil and gas production, recently becoming the top oil producing nation in the world. While the surge in production has been fostered in part by the Administration’s All of the Above energy strategy, national parks and other sensitive lands are potentially at risk. Local uproar after controversial oil and gas leases were offered near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in 2008, resulted in the Obama administration creating MLPs, which bring stakeholders together to figure out where and how leasing can – and cannot – occur near sensitive landscapes like national parks. For more information about the impacts of energy development on national parks, click here..

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About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) 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, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.

About the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees

The over 1,000 members of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees are all former employees of the National Park Service with nearly 30,000 years of stewardship of America’s most precious natural and cultural resources. In their personal lives, CNPSR members reflect the broad spectrum of skills and expertise that distinguished their National Park Service careers. CNPSR members now strive to apply their credibility and integrity as they continue to support the NPS Mission, NPS employees and speak out for national park solutions that uphold law and apply sound science. For more information, visit www.npsretirees.org.

About Park Rangers for Our Lands

We are former park rangers who haven’t stopped caring about our nation’s parks simply because we no longer work for our old agencies. We still care, and we are still committed to working to protect them. We believe that our voices can make a difference. We use our voice to urge land managers and energy leaders to follow wise and sound land management practices. We are not against all energy extraction on public lands. But we are opposed to projects that could threaten the integrity, health, and viability of important public lands, especially our nation’s national parks. For more information, visit www.parkrangers.org.