Last week, the Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act. Western Energy Alliance has been actively supporting the provisions of the bill that would take revenue from oil and natural gas production on public lands, and direct it into national parks.
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 is the Alliance doing this? After all, companies having 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.
The second answer is that we and our members are civic minded. We do indeed care how the government uses the billions of dollars of federal revenue we generate annually. We want to see it used for the betterment of society. By making a direct link from oil and 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.
The bill is a great way to highlight that offshore production already generates 100% of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has funded nearly $4 billion in 42,000 conservation projects over many years. The new bill would likewise dedicate revenues from onshore federal production into repair of our national parks. It’s a great opportunity to highlight all our industry does for conservation.
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 reasonable balance that returns money to the American taxpayer while protecting the land.
Yet these groups constantly throw up roadblocks to development that the Alliance must battle. President Trump has already said he’d sign the bill if the House passes it. After that, when obstructionist groups once again sue to stop leasing or permits, we’ll have a potent new tool. We’ll be able to point out how their efforts take vital funding away from national parks. Conservation simply doesn’t happen without someone generating the revenue, and that “someone” is oil and natural gas.