Some of the West's wildest lands and most valuable wildlife habitat is still at risk from the exploitative energy policies of the last administration.
Under the Bush administration's "drill first, ask questions later" policy, Big Oil and Gas enjoyed unprecedented access to our public lands, all while collecting $72 billion in taxpayer subsidies. This accelerated leasing program left some federal employees with the mistaken belief that they're required to fast-track leasing on public lands.
A game-changing lawsuit brought by The Wilderness Society, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and other groups has gotten the attention of the Obama Administration. As a result, the Interior Department is working on new policies for oil and gas leasing on federal lands that are expected within the next few weeks. The Department's own review team is recommending positive changes to leasing policies. It is up to Secretary Salazar to approve these recommendations.
Not surprisingly, Big Oil and Gas have mounted a massive campaign to derail the new guidelines. That means it's up to us to loosen the grip of the oil and gas industry and take back our public lands.
Right now you can contact Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and urge the Interior Department to move forward with new guidelines that will protect wild lands from unnecessary oil and gas drilling.
Under your leadership, the Department of the Interior's balanced approach to the management of our public lands has been a refreshing change. I especially support your decisive action regarding the court's Utah leasing decisions. I am confident that the Interior Department is well positioned to learn from the mistakes of the last administration, thanks to your decision to have a team of experts analyze the leasing decisions and program.
I urge you to incorporate all of the Review Team's recommendations into Interior's oil and gas leasing program. The Team encouraged BLM to take a more active role in identifying appropriate lease parcels and performing on-the-ground reviews. Leasing decisions must recognize and protect the wildlife, wilderness, and cultural values of our public lands while providing for orderly, well-planned energy development. Honoring all these valued resources as you reform the Bureau of Land Management's oil and gas program is crucial to the Interior Department's effort to provide sound public lands stewardship.
Please know I support your effort to "take back" our public lands from the oil and gas industry as you continue to move the country toward better care of these lands that belong to all Americans.