DENVER – Interior Secretary Deb Haaland recently announced $1.6 billion for maintenance and repairs at national parks and other public lands under the new Great American Outdoors Act. However, the country could see a significant reduction in conservation funding in the future because President Biden is risking the program’s largest source of revenues: oil and natural gas production on public lands.
“The investment Sec. Haaland announced for America’s national parks is not possible without oil and natural gas production on federal lands, which provides practically all the funding,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of Western Energy Alliance. “Yet she and the president are on a path to eliminate the very source of revenue that underwrites the conservation program. By banning new leasing and embarking on policies to make development on existing leases prohibitive, the federal government will soon struggle to pay for public lands conservation. The policies that are the hallmark of the first 100 days are, paradoxically, a good way to ensure the massive backlog of maintenance at national parks remains into the future. Besides killing up to 58,676 oil and natural gas related jobs annually, the president’s ban threatens over 108,000 long-term jobs fixing national park infrastructure.”
The National Park Service will receive $1.158 billion for infrastructure projects that include maintaining visitor centers, trails, campgrounds, roads, bridges, and water systems. The funds will help reduce the Park Service’s $13.1 billion backlog of deferred maintenance. The Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Education, and national wildlife refuges will receive $265 million for similar infrastructure improvements.
No money will be allocated to national parks in New Mexico and Utah despite the states contributing $1.3 billion and $66.3 million, respectively, in oil and natural gas royalties. Contrast their shares to these states which provide next to no federal royalties:
“It’s astounding that New Mexico and Utah contribute so much in oil and natural gas wealth for the country but are rewarded so meagerly. Instead of addressing needs at the iconic parks of the West like Chaco Canyon, Arches and Zion, prosperous costal states are allowed to cash in,” added Sgamma.
The funds are authorized under the Great American Outdoors Act passed by Congress in an overwhelming bipartisan fashion last summer. The act authorizes up to $1.9 billion annually, predominantly from oil and natural gas production on non-park, non-wilderness public lands, for maintenance and conservation in national parks and other protected public lands. The act also permanently funds the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund to the tune of $900 million annually, which is exclusively generated from offshore oil and natural gas. Western Energy Alliance supported the bill because it provides an appropriate balance between responsible energy development on working landscapes while preserving our nation’s treasured public spaces.
“The federal oil and natural gas program is the primary source of new conservation and infrastructure funding for public lands. With his ban on federal oil and natural gas leasing, President Biden is risking $2.8 billion annually for our national parks and other treasured landscapes,” concluded Sgamma.
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