Op-ed: Non-producing oil and gas leases tie up 1.7 million acres of land in Utah

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Heggie Wilson bids during the BLM quarterly sale/auction of BLM oil and gas leases in Salt Lake City, Utah, Tuesday, March 24, 2009. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Despite strong public support for protecting our outdoor heritage, since the start of the Trump administration the scale has been steadily tipping in favor of the special interests that threaten access to public lands. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and the Department of the Interior (DOI) are short-changing families, using loopholes to capitalize off of our public lands and unfairly diverting taxpayer money to a handful of elites. From day one, this administration has opted to shelter the millionaires and billionaires in the oil and gas industry instead of our irreplaceable public landscapes, setting the stage for a rigged system.

Our public lands, and the opportunities they offer Americans of all stripes, are an intricate part of our outdoor heritage. While some of these landscapes are open for responsible development, some of these places are simply too special to be developed because of their cultural, historical and recreational value.

For years, federal land managers have been tasked with balancing development with conservation across our public lands, guided in large part by the multiple-use mandate. Under this policy, public lands must be used by the public and benefit the public. If followed, the mandate ensures that conservation and responsible development remain balanced and that our public landscapes are maintained for future generations to enjoy.

Unfortunately, the system overwhelmingly favors oil and gas development over conservation, despite the economic benefits recreation also brings to communities, and with each passing day, the Trump administration has demonstrated their eagerness to double down on this rigged system and embolden the oil and gas industry and its lobbyists in Washington, D.C., while ignoring the outdoor industry.

On March 28, Trump signed an executive order that would deliver a stark message to visitors, businesses and the local community who enjoy and depend on Utah’s public lands: our public lands are all open and available for energy development….

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