DENVER – Interior Secretary Deb Haaland recently announced that out of $1.6 billion in deferred maintenance funding for public lands nationwide, Utah will receive only $7.3 million. The conservation funds come primarily from federal oil and natural gas royalties, as directed by the Great American Outdoors Act. Utah’s share is paltry considering the state contributed $88.5 million in royalties to the federal government and ranks fourth in natural gas and fifth in oil production on public lands. Contrast Utah’s share to these states that provide next to no federal royalties:
“It’s astounding that Utah contributes to oil and natural gas wealth for the country and contains some of the nation’s most iconic national parks, but is rewarded so meagerly. Instead of addressing needs at Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks, 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 Utah will receive barely makes a dent in the $225 million maintenance backlog in the state’s national parks and monuments. Utah’s $7.3 million share will go to repair trails, recreation facilities, roads, and campgrounds on Bureau of Land Management lands, but will do nothing to address the $41.5 million maintenance shortfall in national monuments. It’s ironic the Interior Department isn’t doing more for Utah’s existing national monuments even as conversations are underway to expand them even further. Perhaps before increasing the size of monuments in Utah the Interior Department should take care of those that currently exist. We’re doing our part in the oil and natural gas industry by providing conservation funding, but the government should manage public lands wisely before stretching resources even further with new obligations,” 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, monuments, 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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