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Recreation Advocate

The OutdoorWire family websites feature news and information affecting outdoor recreation opportunities and access to public lands. 

Bishop Rebuts Remarks Made Today by Former DOI Secretary Bruce Babbitt

Notes that conservation lands overwhelmingly outweigh leased acres

WASHINGTON – House Natural Resources Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (UT-01) issued the following statement in response to remarks delivered today by former Department of Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt encouraging the President to impose stricter federal lands policies that aim to limit multiple use and energy production:

“I would probably be willing to accept the ‘one for one’ concept if we started at the position of parity. At present, little more than 37 million acres of BLM land have been leased for oil and gas development, whereas 293 million acres have already been set aside for conservation. This disparity clearly favors conservation but also reinforces the fact that deserving places are already being protected.  Instead of villainizing American energy developers, Secretary Babbitt should accept the fact that energy development, multiple use, and conservation are not mutually exclusive activities,” said Bishop.

BLM Acres Leased for oil and gas in 2012 =   37,792,212 acres  (source: Bureau of Land Management)

Federal Conservation Lands =   293.5 million acres  (source: Congressional Research Service)

National Park Service: 79.7 million
Wilderness Study Areas: 18.8 million
Wilderness Areas: 109.5 million
Forest Service Roadless: 58.5 million
National Landscape Conservation System: 27 million
Total: 293.5 million acres  (source: congressional research service)

“As Governor, Bruce Babbitt had a logical view of public land use in this country. However, as Secretary, Babbitt abandoned his former ideologies and launched a campaign to limit energy production and public land use in this country. In the final days of the Clinton Administration, Secretary Babbitt orchestrated one of the most historic assaults on Utah’s energy resources in the history of the state when he helped President Clinton establish the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument through executive fiat.  This locked up the nation’s largest proven coal deposit. Suggesting that the President hurry up and use the Antiquities Act to unilaterally establish new land designations clearly illustrates that Secretary Babbitt’s agenda is purely political and has little to do with the vitality of states and communities. Otherwise, he would instead be encouraging these efforts to initiate at a local level, where most responsible and common sense land policies originate. I’m not opposed to new land designations, new national monuments, or even new wilderness areas, but they must be the result of collaborative efforts at the local level, and not an arbitrary formula concocted by a former presidential cabinet member turned liberal activist,” Bishop added.

In 1982, as Governor of the State of Arizona, Babbitt wrote that:

“By any conceivable measure of the relative federal and state interest, management of the public domain in the West is not fairly shared.

“This lack of management control—not lack of ownership—is frustrating planned growth in the West at the very moment it is needed most. It is as if each western state were split in two, with part administered from the state capitol and the rest from the Interior Department on ‘C’ street in Washington, D.C. neither the federal nor the state interests in the public lands are protected by this confused management structure. Greater shared management is needed; it can be achieved by increasing the responsibilities of state and local governments for the public domain.

“It is ironic that, while, the roots of the Sagebrush Rebellion may be traced to passage of FLPMA, the Act took significant strides toward increasing the influence of state and local government on federal land use planning activities. Section 202 of the Act establishes guidelines for BLM planning, including provisions requiring coordination with the planning and management programs of state and local governments.  The Act mandates that the BLM consider state and local plans in designing resource management programs. Federal plans must be ‘consistent’ with state and local efforts ‘to the maximum extent [the Secretary] finds consistent with Federal law and the purposes of the Act.’ Inconsistencies between federal and nonfederal plans are to be resolved to the extent practical.”

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