White House ‘Energy First’ Agenda Poses Serious Risk to Public Lands
Officials in the U.S. Health Department are looking to pursue an “energy first” agenda where over 2.9 million acres of public land may go up for lease auction. Some of these areas include large swaths of recreational land near Chaco national historical in New Mexico, the Petrified Forest national park in Arizona, and the Dinosaur national monument in Colorado.
This week, land in Utah was leased within 10 miles of Canyonlands National Park. White House mandates led to the shrinking of the overall area of several national environmental landmarks. Over 200,000 acres along were up for auction this year alone, and next quarters auctions are expected to be on a much bigger scale.
Due to these changes implemented by interior secretary Ryan Zinke, it has left little room for public input in the sale of these public lands. Ashley Soltysiak, director of the Utah Sierra Club said these auctions, “can now be done with little regard for public input, despite the fact that the land is being leased. The new oil and gas lease process dramatically reduces opportunities for public comment and shrinks the period for public protest to less than two weeks.”
Despite these warnings, Bureau of Land Management officials assure that public participation in the matter is welcomed and taken into consideration. Ryan Sutherland, public affairs specialist for the Bureau of Land Management said, “Lands offered for leasing undergo thorough environmental review with opportunities for public input at several stages,” adding that these leases also include provisions for strict environmental protections. The case of the matter, however, is just how effective are oil and gas companies’ practices in protecting the environment.