Two years ago, President Donald Trump signed the executive order on “energy dominance,” setting forth his administration’s priorities when it comes to the production of energy resources on our public lands.
In the interim, the administration has done its best to manage our public lands for that preferred use, to the concern of local communities and outdoor businesses like mine.
The executive order mandated a review of all actions that could “burden” the development of energy resources; it also immediately revoked a host of Obama-era policies. While on its face the energy dominance agenda is ostensibly aimed at energy independence (a goal of U.S. presidents for decades), the new policies place a heavy emphasis on producing and exporting fossil fuels at the expense of everything else.
In order to achieve the goals set out by this order, our public lands have been opened up to development and resource extraction more than ever. Since the executive order two years ago, the administration has attempted to lease millions of acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands to oil and gas, oftentimes for pennies on the dollar.
Many iconic landscapes have not been spared from this dangerous and shortsighted policy, including public lands on the doorstep of several national parks and monuments, as well as important habitat for wildlife species like mule deer, elk and sage grouse.
Another alarming trend in public land management under the Trump Administration has been the changes to leasing procedures on BLM lands, including the reduction of public comment and protest periods, sometimes to as little as 10 days.
While a court case recently struck down this reduction in relation to lands containing sage grouse habitat, many drilling proposals on the rest of our BLM-managed public lands remain subject to reduced comment periods.
The administration has framed these changes as “streamlining” the leasing process; however it actually shows a worrying disregard for the public’s say in managing our own lands, and also shows the administration’s preferential treatment of oil and gas operators over all other uses.
Public lands are essential to our business at Osprey Packs. Our customers need dependable access to public lands in order to use our products. Further, public lands provide quality of life for our employees and our community. Having public lands for recreation is one of the reasons we decided to locate in Cortez, Colo. As a business and as individuals, we care deeply about the continued health and vitality of Colorado and our nation’s public lands.
The solution to these imbalances is simple: the administration, and by extension the BLM, should consider outdoor recreation uses and concerns on equal footing with extractive uses in their planning processes.
Our federal agencies cannot ignore their duty to manage public lands for multiple uses and for the benefit of American taxpayers. Local communities, particularly in the West, are investing in outdoor recreation — an $887 billion industry — as a proven economic driver.
By diversifying their economic drivers away from the boom-and-bust cycle of resource extraction, communities are able to attract not only tourists and recreation enthusiasts, but businesses and professionals who are searching for the quality of life outdoor recreation provides.
More and more, employees are listing access to the out-of-doors as a top factor in deciding where to live and work, and companies that wish to recruit and retain top talent are taking notice.
In addition to including recreation concerns in their planning, the BLM must not shorten public comment periods. Outfitters, retailers, and others in the outdoor recreation world depend on their voices being heard in these decisions.
Local communities and businesses deserve to have a comment process that is navigable and allows them ample time to engage in decisions that can affect their livelihoods; shortened comment periods cannot do this with any integrity.
Westerners cannot afford two more years of “energy dominance” and the administration’s disregard for the mandate to manage for multiple uses. Leaders in Washington must be held accountable to prevent further degradation of our public lands, waters and wildlife and to end the preferential treatment of oil and gas companies.
Layne Rigney is the CEO of Osprey Packs in Cortez, Colorado. Prior to Osprey Packs, Layne was president of CamelBak Products. He has over 25 years of experience in the bike and outdoor industry, and has served in executive level roles at PowerBar, RockShox and Franklin Resource Group.
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