Former Interior Secretary Babbitt speaks at the National Press Club outlining a balanced approach to public lands use.

Former Interior Secretary Babbitt speaks at the National Press Club outlining a balanced approach to public lands use.

Today Former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt outlined a vision for balanced public land management in a speech at the National Press Club.

Secretary Babbitt urged President Obama to permanently protect one acre of public lands – potentially as a national park, wilderness area, or national monument – for every one acre of our public lands leased to the oil and gas industry. Doing so places the conservation of our public lands on equal ground with energy development and will address concerns about the economic impact of oil and gas drilling on industries that depend upon public lands.

Ellynne Bannon, western lands program manager for the Checks and Balances Project offered the following comment on Babbitt’s remarks:

“Secretary Babbitt’s speech laid out a common-sense approach for how to use our public lands, one that threads the needle between energy development and conservation. We need state BLM directors to adopt Sec. Babbitt’s suggestions. No state better demonstrates why we need a new vision than Colorado, where State BLM Director Helen Hankins has acted more like a real estate agent for oil and gas companies instead of a responsible land use manager. She’s made decisions that have run roughshod over the concerns and livelihoods of farmers, ranchers, businesses, and land owners with her drill-first, ask questions later approach.”

According to a recent analysis by The Wilderness Society, Dir. Hankins’ policies have resulted in protests against 85 percent of Colorado leases in fiscal year 2012, compared to 33 percent throughout the rest of the Rocky Mountain region.

Regrettably, many in Congress share Hankins’ disregard for the multiple uses of public lands. Here are a few facts about public land use in the United States:

  • The 112th Congress was the first since World War II not to protect a single new acre of public land as a park, wilderness area, or national monument.
  • The United States is losing an area of open space the size of Rhode Island to development every year.
  • In the past four years, the oil and gas industry has leased more than 6 million acres of public lands, compared with only 2.6 million acres permanently protected.

Secretary Babbitt’s proposal would ensure that our nation’s public lands and the communities that depend on them are protected for generations to come.