Conservation Update: Romney Energy Plan Would Give Drilling Control on Federal Lands to States

Presidential candidates traditionally spend their campaigns making plenty of promises–then quickly forget most of them if they get elected. After … Continued

Presidential candidates traditionally spend their campaigns making plenty of promises–then quickly forget most of them if they get elected. After looking at the energy plan Mitt Romney released this week, sportsmen can only hope the GOP candidate follows that custom should he win this November. That’s because of the following, which is from page eight of Romney’s energy policy white paper.

Empower States To Control Onshore Energy Debelopment

• States will be empowered to establish processes to oversee the development and production of all forms of energy on federal lands within their borders, excluding only lands specially designated off-limits.

• State regulatory processes and permitting programs for all forms of energy development will be deemed to satisfy all requirements of federal law.

• Federal agencies will certify state processes as adequate, according to established criteria that are sufficiently broad, to afford the states maximum flexibility to ascertain what is most appropriate.

• The federal government will encourage the formation of a State Energy Development Council, where states can work together along with existing organizations such as STRONGER and the IOGCC to share expertise and best management practice.

When it comes to the future of public hunting and fishing–especially out West–fewer proposals could be more frightening.

Sportsmen’s groups have spent the last decade fighting the push by extractive industries–typically timber, mining, oil and gas–to get congress to weaken or lift federal regulations protecting fish and wildlife values on our public lands. We have been generally successful because our ally in this fight generally is the rest of the nation–our co-owners of these public lands.

If that authority is passed to states, the battles will be lost in short order, because commercial groups have great influence in those state houses, which is why state regs in these areas generally are weaker than federal standards.

Romney’s proposal is an echo of the long and rising chant by many Western politicians that “the feds own too much of our state.”

Well, actually, the rest of the nation’s taxpayers own that land–that’s who “the feds” are. Taxpayers have spent hundreds of billions of dollars managing and protecting that land for the public trust for more than a hundred years–and now some politicians want us to hand it over. The national stewardship of our lands has allowed a recreational industry to thrive that supports more than 12 million jobs–and allows so many private sportsmen to enjoy nature.

Romney already has questioned the purpose of public lands, and his vice-presidential pick, Rep. Paul Ryan, proposes selling public lands to address the deficit.

None of this makes sense for sportsmen, or even the economy. These lands make public outdoor recreation possible, and that pastime actually adds to the nation’s gross domestic product.