DENVER – In response to President Biden designating Camp Hale as a national monument, Western Energy Alliance today called on him to end policies threatening future conservation funding. The Denver-based trade association cautioned that programs under the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), which are funded almost exclusively by federal oil and natural gas, are at risk because of his policies and growing mismanagement by federal agencies. The Alliance also stressed the proposed land withdrawal around the Thompson Divide ignores the balanced oil and natural gas development in the area since the 1940s that has protected the land.
“Designating more national monuments like Camp Hale adds to the list of protected lands that the federal government struggles to fund and maintain,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Alliance. “There is already a $22 billion backlog of conservation and infrastructure projects for protected lands, while costs continue to balloon because of government mismanagement. The bright spot is that GAOA provided secure funding for conservation derived almost exclusively from federal oil and natural gas production. On the other hand, Biden has been intent on eliminating federal oil and natural gas since day one of his presidency. It’s not clear the president is aware that oil and natural gas and conservation are directly linked. An attack on one is an attack on the other. Therefore, the president’s policies have created a double whammy that put the future of Camp Hale and other public lands at risk.”
“In addition, the White House has initiated a withdrawal for the Thompson Divide while advancing a false narrative that energy development and land protection are mutually exclusive. Oil and natural gas activity has taken place in the Thompson Divide area since the 1940s while conserving the land. We can do both: we can develop energy while protecting the land. The area remains a vital resource and is located within the second largest potential natural gas reserve in the United States. There’s no need to lock away public lands and minerals, especially at a time of high energy prices,” added Sgamma.
Signed into law in 2020, GAOA established the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund that provides $1.9 billion annually for national park and public lands restoration. An estimated 91 percent of the revenues for the program come from federal onshore oil and natural gas. The law fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually for conservation. The money comes exclusively from offshore oil and natural gas production.
Colorado has benefited greatly from these conservation programs in the past two years. The state has received $67 million for conservation projects in Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, San Luis Valley, Grand Junction, and other public lands.
“We’re proud that revenues from oil and natural gas production on non-park, non-wilderness public lands provides the vast majority of the $2.8 billion annually for federal conservation. However, if Biden’s attacks on our industry are not reversed, over time the revenue stream for these conservation programs will dry up. Compounding the problem, the cost of protecting iconic places has swelled under the current administration. Money that should be spent in the field protecting places like Camp Hale is being squandered in Washington, D.C. on excessive paperwork and bureaucracy,” concluded Sgamma.
Despite the billions of dollars invested in the two years since the new law was created, the cost associated with the backlog of maintenance projects at national parks and other public lands has skyrocketed under the Biden administration. Earlier this year, the National Park Service (NPS) announced the backlog that is funded by GAOA grew to $21.8 billion. When GAOA was signed into law two years ago the backlog was $13 billion. A congressional oversight hearing earlier this year revealed numerous problems within the U.S. Department of the Interior and NPS including the growing costs to administer the program, conduct environmental reviews, and complete projects.
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