DENVER – Interior Secretary Deb Haaland recently announced that out of $1.6 billion in deferred maintenance funding for public lands nationwide, New Mexico will receive only $6.8 million. The conservation funds come primarily from federal oil and natural gas royalties, as directed by the Great American Outdoors Act. New Mexico’s share is paltry considering the state contributed $1.35 billion in royalties to the federal government and ranks first in oil production and second in natural gas on public lands. Contrast New Mexico’s share to these states which provide next to no federal oil and natural gas royalties:
“It’s astounding that New Mexico contributes so much in oil and natural gas wealth for the country but is rewarded so meagerly. Instead of addressing needs at sites like Chaco Canyon and Aztec Ruins in New Mexico, prosperous costal states are allowed to cash in,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of Western Energy Alliance. “To make matters worse, the president is on a path to eliminate the very source of revenue that underwrites national park deferred maintenance funding. By banning new leasing on federal lands and embarking on policies to make development on existing leases prohibitive, the federal government will soon struggle to pay for any additional 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 small share New Mexico will receive barely makes a dent in the $147 million maintenance backlog in the state’s national parks, including nearly $19 million at Chaco Cultural Historical Park and $5.2 million at Aztec Ruins National Monument. Rather, New Mexico’s $6.8 million share will go to repair dams, visitor facilities, roads, and water systems on Bureau of Land Management lands. It’s ironic the Interior Department is not doing more for Chaco, given Sec. Haaland has supported eliminating oil and natural gas development in the vicinity outside the park, supposedly to protect it. It seems like a missed opportunity to directly fund facilities and cultural resource protection inside the park.
“Furthermore, removing development will devastate the livelihoods of thousands of Indian mineral owners who wish to develop their oil and natural gas resources as a means to provide for their families. Annually, 21,000 Navajo mineral owners receive about $100 million from oil companies that develop the minerals on their behalf. Depriving Native Americans of their royalty income in an economically disadvantaged area is not justifiable from an environmental justice perspective,” 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 basically the sole source of new conservation and maintenance funding for our 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 iconic public lands,” added Sgamma.
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