Report Jun 8, 2016

A Responsible Process: Using Master Leasing Plans to Balance Sensible Energy Development and the Protection of National Parks

A Responsible Process Report (2016) (1.19 MB)

Our National Park System has repeatedly been called "America’s Best Idea." Our national parks strive to reflect the countless facets of this nation: our landscapes, our culture and our history. They are those places we are most proud of, the ones that have shaped us, and the ones that we must not neglect.

But our national parks are part of a shared landscape. Across the country, especially in the West, our national parks exist next to or near other federal lands, including those managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM manages millions of acres in the West under the principle of “multiple use,” providing for varying uses and values so that these lands are “utilized in the combination that will best meet the present and future needs of the American people.” Examples of these uses include mining, fishing, camping, livestock grazing and hunting.

Another of the multiple uses is oil and gas development. Oil and gas production has long been a part of the West, but recent advancements in hydraulic fracturing technology have spurred a tremendous increase in the amount of new wells being drilled. The BLM is responsible for maintaining a balance among all the different uses of lands under its management, but this balance has been challenged by the surge in oil and gas production.

In order to better resolve potential conflicts between oil producers and other users on sensitive BLM lands, the Obama administration instituted a “smart from the start” leasing process called Master Leasing Plans. These public processes examine how oil and gas is leased in particularly controversial areas, such as lands with high recreational and ecological values, including many lands near national parks.