We knew something was going on when we started getting press inquiries two months before the lease list for the September Utah lease sale was even released. It was a sure sign that a narrative was being developed by environmental Keep-It-in-the-Ground groups that was being lapped up by the media.
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) generated a map with nominated parcels and started making the rounds with the Washington Post and Bloomberg. As usual, environmental groups are insinuating that there should not be leasing “near” national parks. It’s a consistent effort to assert a buffer around national parks, but of course, “near” can mean anything. We’ve seen groups complain about leases 50 miles from park boundaries because that’s too near. But even a quick look at this map shows that most leases are several miles away from park boundaries.
The narrative SUWA and others are advancing is that the Trump Administration is recklessly moving forward with oil and gas development to the detriment of public lands. But wait a minute. Actually, BLM is following the leasing plan established by the Obama Administration. The previous administration decided to do an extra, multi-year land use planning process, and finalized the Moab Master Leasing Plan (MLP) in December 2016. It was one of those last-minute actions that BLM managed to get done at the very end of the Obama presidency.
The MLP was heavily advocated for by SUWA, the Wilderness Society and other environmental groups that are now complaining that the Trump Administration is leasing. Yes, they’re complaining that BLM is following the MLP and leasing in areas that were designated as open from that process. They got their buffers around the national parks, but that’s still not enough. They’re still complaining that leasing is “near” national parks. And by near, as always, they mean several miles away. For those parcels that truly are “near” the parks, you’ll notice that they’re in areas designated as No Surface Occupancy (NSO).
That’s where Western Energy Alliance comes in. I have been patiently explaining that the plan was an effort by these very same environmental groups working with the Obama Administration. And we’ll be pointing out that oil and natural gas has provided more conservation funding than any of these so-called conservation groups. We could do even more if the Restore Our Parks bill, which we’ve been heavily supporting, is passed by Congress. The bill would take over a billion dollars every year from oil and natural gas leasing and royalty revenue and apply it to national parks.
I’ll be making those points as the news cycle is replayed on Thursday as the parcel list is released to commence a 30-day comment period. And then the news cycle will be replayed yet again as the actual sale draws near in September. And then again with the next sale, and the next one…