I was honored to be at the Interior Department’s ceremony shortly after the president signed the bill. As Interior Secretary Bernhardt noted, the day will be remembered in the history of our national parks as one of the most significant, as conservation and national parks will have secure funding from oil and natural gas royalties.
As Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) states in a campaign ad, the secure funding for the Land and Water Conservation has been the “holy grail” of the environmental movement for decades. That’s why environmental groups didn’t try to block Senators Gardner and Steve Daines (R-MT), the main sponsors of the bill, from this victory. While President Trump, whom they otherwise refuse to credit for any positive environmental policies, will be remembered by history for signing the bill, they knew they couldn’t pass up this opportunity to achieve their holy grail.
Western Energy Alliance was recognized as influential in the passage of the bill. We’d been active for over two years supporting the part of the legislation that ties federal onshore oil and natural gas development and production with national parks conservation.
We conducted a #ParksinWreck campaign to highlight the $12 billion funding shortfall in our beloved national parks, and how the parks suffer from crumbling roads, dilapidated visitors’ centers, and eroding trails. We raised money for Friends of Arches and Canyonlands Park as a way to raise awareness of the need to reduce the maintenance backlog in the parks.
Why were we so active? After all, companies have been producing on public lands in the West for decades. Why do we care what the government does with its 12.5% take of the revenue?
Well, we live, work and play in the West, where over 50% of the land is federally owned and the majority of parks are located. We love national parks just as much as other Americans. They’re right in our backyard, and we visit them regularly.
In addition, we’re civic minded. We do indeed care how the government uses the billions of dollars of federal revenue our members generate annually. We want to see it used for the betterment of society. By making a direct link from oil and natural gas development on non-park, non-wilderness public lands to national parks, we raise awareness of how our industry provides more money for conservation than anyone else.
Our campaigns highlighted how offshore production already generates 100% of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has funded $19 billion and 42,000 conservation projects over decades. The new law likewise dedicates revenues from onshore federal leasing and production into repair of our national parks.
Finally, Western Energy Alliance is constantly fighting Keep-It-in-the-Ground groups who want absolutely no development on public lands. Development only occurs in a small portion of the vast federal land holdings, and not on areas set aside for conservation like national parks and wilderness areas. Of the 700 million acres of federal lands and minerals, only 25.5 million are under lease, with only about .07% of the land having any oil and gas surface disturbance. It’s a balance that provides a return to the American taxpayer while protecting the land.
Yet these groups constantly throw up roadblocks to development that the Alliance must battle. But now, we have a potent new tool. Keep-It-in-the-Ground efforts, such as presidential candidate Joe Biden’s vows to stop leasing and drilling on federal lands, threaten vital funding for national parks and conservation. Without the oilfield, conservation suffers.