Two years ago this week, the Department of the Interior rolled out a doctrine that may inflict extensive, long-lasting harm to wildlife on our public lands. The so-called “energy dominance doctrine” has attempted to prioritize use of public lands for oil and gas leasing, weaken environmental processes and reduce public comment opportunity. This orientation — to put energy development above all else — could have a woeful effect on our wildlife heritage and our outdoor recreation industry.
The public lands where the administration has proposed drilling are some of the most important landscapes in Colorado for wildlife. By way of example, areas at risk are sage grouse habitat that had been closed to leasing under the 2015 plan but are now open to drilling under the Resource Management Plan Amendment issued by Bureau of Land Management in March. Late last year, even when the 2015 plan was still in effect, BLM originally had proposed offering numerous of these closed parcels for lease, likely in anticipation of the forthcoming new plan. Thanks in large part to efforts by former Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet, the parcels were withdrawn.
Some parcels in priority grouse habitat that will be open to proposed leasing under the new plan carry a no-surface-occupancy stipulation. But this essential stipulation could be waived, or modified. At least a public comment period of 30 days may be required. The Department of Interior also discarded the master leasing-planning tool designed in 2010 for BLM to address potential conflicts in designated landscapes during its planning process.
Another concern with energy dominance is that as leasing proceeds in big game winter ranges, inadequate safeguards are provided. More than timing limitations are needed to prevent cumulative impacts to such important habitat for deer, elk and pronghorn.
Americans in general — and westerners in particular — take immense pride in their public lands. Colorado College’s Conservation in the West Poll published earlier this year found that 73 percent of Coloradans say the ability to enjoy nearby public lands was a significant reason they chose to live here. Sixty-five percent said they would prefer that Congress place greater emphasis on protecting wildlife habitat on our public lands and providing recreation opportunities.
Our love of public lands, and the outdoors generally, also has become a major economic engine in the state. Last year Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy grew to more than $62 billion, almost double what it was five years ago. That robust industry supports more than a half million jobs across the state. Balance among wildlife habitat conservation, outdoor recreation and oil and gas leasing on our public lands is imperative, and energy dominance poses a real threat to future equilibrium among uses.
This administration’s energy dominance doctrine disrupts efforts to achieve balance among competing interests on our public lands and the concerns of westerners. For many years our organization has supported the concept of responsible energy development on public lands to the extent that it does not unduly impair important wildlife habitat.
Join us in speaking out not against energy, but against the energy dominance policy. Let’s protect our wildlife for future generations to enjoy.
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