Sportsmen Warn that House Energy Bill Jeopardizes Public Lands, Leasing Reforms

Hunters and anglers voice concerns about accelerated drilling and impacts of unbalanced energy development on fish and wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation

WASHINGTON – A package of energy bills being debated in the U.S. House of Representatives directly threatens hunting, fishing and recreation on public lands because it favors drilling over all other land uses and rolls back reasonable regulations, a sportsmen’s coalition said today.

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development notes that the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act (H.R. 4480) would speed leasing and permitting of public lands at the expense of public input and reforms that have reduced lease protests by addressing potential conflicts upfront. One provision would charge citizens $5,000 to protest a drilling permit or lease and limit the courts’ ability to right federal agencies’ wrongs.

“Common-sense leasing reforms have helped restore balance to energy development on public lands,” said Brad Powell, energy director for Trout Unlimited. “We shouldn’t roll back safeguards for our public lands and endanger hunting, fishing and other activities that are vital to rural economies across the region and the cornerstone of our Western heritage and lifestyle.”

Trout Unlimited, the National Wildlife Federation and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership are lead partners in the SFRED coalition. A new report by the coalition highlights the economic benefits of conserving public lands.

“Conserving public lands in the Rocky Mountain West pays off in dependable jobs, population and income growth in comparison to the boom-and-bust cycles typical of energy-focused economies,” said Ed Arnett, director of the TRCP Center for Responsible Energy Development. “Meanwhile, the country is seeing record oil production and plummeting natural gas prices due to an oversupply, and oil and gas leases on 20 million acres of federal land are sitting idle.”

Groups like Backcountry Hunters and Anglers acknowledge the need for sensible energy development, said Ken Theis, the group’s Utah coordinator.

“Yet the pro-energy legislation now being proposed in Congress ignores or dismisses the concerns of sportsmen and the importance of protecting the resources that sustain quality habitat for hunting and fishing,” Theis said. “Ensuring the protection of resources that perpetuate the legacy of hunting and fishing on public lands would demonstrate whether these politicians really do support the interests of hunters and anglers.”

H.R. 4480 includes the following potentially harmful measures:

  • The Interior Department would be required to offer leases on at least 25 percent of the public land nominated for leasing each year.
  • Interior would have to issue a drilling permit within 30 days of receiving the application.
  • Members of the public would have to pay a $5,000 fee to protest a lease, right of way or drilling permit, which would represent an obstacle for many citizens’ involvement.
  • Oil and gas development would be expedited in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, a nearly 23-million acre area prized for its rich wildlife and wilderness-quality landscape.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s rules and actions would be analyzed to determine effects on fuel prices and jobs, potentially undermining efforts to reduce air pollution and tighten motor vehicle emission and fuel standards.

Hunters and anglers are voicing concerns about the rush to accelerate drilling and the possible effects of unbalanced energy development on valuable fish and wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation:

Courtney Amerine, sportswoman, Laramie, Wyo., 307-274-7582:
“As a sportswoman and someone who enjoys the use of our public lands, I am extremely disappointed by efforts to reduce public input into management of our public lands and to roll back the 2010 leasing reforms. We have seen the results of unbridled energy development in places like Pinedale, Wyo., and none of it has been good for wildlife and sportsmen. The 2010 reforms have gone a long way in reducing protests, engaging the public and balancing uses on our public lands. To lose these reforms will be devastating to our voice, wildlife, water and air.”

Bob Elderkin, hunter, retired Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Geological Survey employee, Silt, Colo., 970-948-9081:
“I don’t think we need to speed up permitting because they already have so many permits they’re not drilling, and until the price of natural gas goes way back up, they’re not going to be drilled. Right now we’re sitting on a glut of gas and exporting it like crazy all over the world. What’s the big push to drill more?”

Elderkin lives in western Colorado’s Piceance Basin, home to some of the country’s largest elk and deer herds and often called the “mule deer factory.” The area is also home to thousands of wells, with more expected, and Colorado’s oil shale deposits. Elderkin said he and other hunters have seen fewer deer in recent years.

“The number of deer is way down; there’s no argument in that. I can’t say it’s energy development, but you’ve got to assume it’s having an effect.”

Sanford Schemnitz, wildlife biologist and member of Southwest Consolidated Sportsmen, Las Cruces, N.M.:
Schemnitz is actively involved in wildlife issues. He has a doctorate and has worked at universities and conducted research for the state of New Mexico. Schemnitz said he can look out the window of his house in south-central New Mexico and see the wilderness and other areas where he likes to hunt.

“Public lands are absolutely essential to sustaining wildlife. I’m concerned about public access for hunters. I’m concerned about, water, wilderness and wildlife.” Schemnitz doesn’t want to see Congress “go in the wrong direction” and derail the recent changes in leasing that were intended to rectify past excesses.

Ken Theis, Utah coordinator, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers:
A southern Colorado native, Ken Theis, who lives in Logan, Utah, has worked as a park planner in Colorado and an environmental planner in the Cache Valley and the Uintah Basin. He has a bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University and a master’s degree from Utah State University. He’s also a hunter and fly fisher who believes in a balanced approach to environmental protection but fears the energy bill will upset that balance.

“If the energy bill in the U.S. House of Representatives passes, it will accelerate the already unprecedented rate of energy development on public lands while limiting oversight of energy extractive industries. Specifically, this legislation circumvents existing resource planning processes that help ensure that watershed values and high quality wildlife habitat are protected, and it shows little concern for the interests of sportsmen. To those of us who value public lands for hunting and fishing as an important part of our lifestyle, protecting these resources are high on our list of priorities.

“Legislators theoretically reflect the values of those they represent. Ensuring the protection of resources that perpetuate the legacy of hunting and fishing on public lands would demonstrate whether these politicians really do support the interests of hunters and anglers.”

Read “Conserving Lands and Prosperity,” a new report on the economic value of conserving public lands and recreational opportunities.

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development is a coalition of more than 500 businesses, organizations and individuals dedicated to conserving irreplaceable habitats so future generations can hunt and fish on public lands. The coalition is led by the National Wildlife Federation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited.

Katherine K. McKalip
Director of Media Relations
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
[email protected]