Washington, D.C. (July 20, 2023) — Today, Outdoor Alliance and Public Land Solutions released a report on oil and gas leasing reform and its impact on outdoor recreation on public lands. Historically, many public land communities have depended on resource extraction as their primary economic driver, but transitions in the economy mean that these communities need better balance between extraction and other economic opportunities, including conservation and outdoor recreation. With remote work on the rise, more communities are focusing their economic development strategies on quality of life, including access to outdoor recreation and protected public lands and waters. Yet our oil and gas leasing system still favor oil and gas development over other economic opportunities and other public land needs.
The newly released report, “Outdoor Recreation and Oil and Gas Leasing Reform” explores the effects of these oil and gas leasing policies on public land communities and provides suggestions for updating these policies to better reflect 21st century demands and opportunities on our public lands and waters.
For example, if we continue to allow methane emissions and fail to provide sufficient bonding for capping wells at the end of their life cycle, we will leave community after community with poor air quality and thousands of acres of unusable land. When large oil and gas developers sell wells to smaller local operators, funds are not available to update well pad equipment, and the burden falls on taxpayers and local residents.
Our country’s current speculative leasing practices tie up public lands for decades, discouraging investments in new trails and outdoor recreation assets. These assets have become reliable economic drivers bringing both tourism and business investment, as more and more companies and professionals choose to live where there is access to healthy landscapes. In Utah, Grand County Commissioner Mary McGann points out: “The area surrounding Moab is home to two state parks, Dead Horse Point and Utahraptor, and two national parks. Arches and Canyonlands. To have an oil well near any of these spectacular parks is like placing a drill rig in the center of a Vincent van Gogh painting. Oil and gas leasing near any of Grand County’s recreation areas is inappropriate, and the leasing system should be updated to reflect this.”
Updating the oil and gas leasing system is even more important to emerging recreation communities like Fruita, Colorado. George Gatseos, from Over the Edge bike shop in Fruita agrees: “It would be great to have the industry of outdoor recreation on an even footing with oil and gas in regard to how the BLM treats commercial uses on public lands.”
America’s public lands and waters are the economic foundation for communities across the West. Reforming the federal oil and gas leasing system is necessary to balance development and conservation responsibly and ensure that recreation resources are prioritized and maintained to meet today’s needs, challenges, and opportunities.
About Outdoor Alliance
Outdoor Alliance is the only organization in the U.S. that unites the voices of outdoor enthusiasts to conserve public lands. A nonprofit coalition comprised of 10 national advocacy organizations, Outdoor Alliance’s members include American Whitewater, American Canoe Association, Access Fund, International Mountain Bicycling Association, Winter Wildlands Alliance, the Mountaineers, the American Alpine Club, the Mazamas, the Colorado Mountain Club, and the Surfrider Foundation. By working with its member coalitions and helping mobilize the involvement of individuals to protect public lands and waters, Outdoor Alliance helps ensure public lands are managed in a way that embraces the human-powered experience. Outdoor Alliance — conservation powered by outdoor recreation. Learn more at OutdoorAlliance.org.