by Katherine McKalip
WASHINGTON – Two bills being voted upon this week by the U.S. House of Representatives would undermine leasing reforms intended to balance energy development activities on public lands, require a set percentage of nominated acres to be offered for lease regardless of potential impacts to fish and wildlife, and limit the federal government’s ability to conserve public lands resources important to hunters and anglers, Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development announced Tuesday.
“These bills continue the onslaught on public lands that attempts to prioritize energy development over all other resources values,” said Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife Federation’s public lands policy director. NWF is a member of the SFRED coalition. “There is nothing strategic about an energy policy that eliminates balance between development and other resources values and threatens the nation’s vibrant and critically important outdoor recreation-based economy.”
House bill H.R. 1965 would cancel onshore oil and gas leasing reforms introduced by the Interior Department in 2010. By enabling advance analysis of potential energy leases and increasing opportunities for public engagement, the reforms have benefitted both industry and sportsmen by reducing the prevalence of lease protests. Early engagement by the public in the leasing process, large-scale planning, and identification of key habitat areas well in advance of leases being offered all are common-sense components of the reforms.
H.R. 1965 also would require that the Secretary of the Interior offer for lease at least 25 percent of the annual nominated acreage of public lands not previously made available. These leases would be offered arbitrarily, regardless of potential impacts to fish and wildlife habitat and hunting and fishing opportunities.
“Hunters and anglers support responsible production of oil, gas and renewable energy on public lands,” said Brad Powell, senior policy director of the Sportsmen’s Conservation Project at Trout Unlimited, also an SFRED member. “Unfortunately, H.R. 1965 would undoubtedly result in more appeals and litigation, harm fish and wildlife, and threaten hunting and angling opportunities on public lands.”
A vote on H.R. 1965 was expected to occur later Tuesday.
Read more on the Sportsmen for Responsible Energy website.